Criticising the police service reinforces the idea that officers do not deserve respect, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has said.
“What we are saying is that criticising the police is not a problem if they think there are weaknesses. But if they say nothing positive, they open them [the police] up to criminal attack,” he told Sapa.
He was referring to the Western Cape community safety department’s increasing criticism of the police service in the province.
He addressed reporters in Mitchells Plain this morning following the fatal shootings of two police officers in Cape Town last night.
Mthethwa said the province had the highest number of attacks on police officers.
“The major point we’re making here is the issues of safety and security, like in any other province, is about working together and partnerships through a multidisciplinary approach,” he said in a telephone interview.
“Police here are working. On an average weekly basis, 30 or 35 firearms are confiscated from the criminals (in Cape Town). There were 1 500 arrests last week for drugs. Those weaknesses they may see should actually be raised in such a way that they are building, not demoralising.”
Community safety MEC Dan Plato condemned the police minister’s comments, accusing him of “playing politics” while people were being killed.
“It is utterly disgusting and totally inappropriate that the national minister would use the death of police officers for electioneering purposes,” Plato said.
“The Constitution entitles provinces to conduct oversight over the police, but every attempt being made by the Western Cape government to improve policing through oversight has been blocked, undermined, and prevented by the ANC national government.”
He claimed no police officers had been hired in the province in the past few years, leaving the force to deal with an increasing population, and thus vulnerable to attack.
Mthethwa denied the claim, saying he was confident the police could complete the tasks at hand.
“There will always be a shortage of police because what they are looking for is policing in all corners, which is not possible. It cannot happen anywhere else,” he said.
Plato said the commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha had aimed to improve relations between police and the community, and identify the root causes of policing problems.
“Instead of working with the commission, the national minister and provincial commissioner opposed it, and we were taken to court.
The Western Cape High Court ruled in the provincial government’s favour but the decision was appealed by Mthethwa, and is pending in the Constitutional Court.
Mthethwa responded that they already had a police inspectorate looking into policing problems in the area before the commission was formed.
“Why do we need more money when the same job is being done internally and they are doing it with impartiality?” the minister asked.
Plato said he had repeatedly called for specialised gang and drug police units to tackle the crisis on the Cape Flats, but this had been opposed by Mthethwa and provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer.
“I have called for the army to patrol the gang-affected areas of the Western Cape so that the police are freed to do their investigations, collect vital evidence, and secure convictions for the gangsters,” he said.
Mthethwa said the army was not the solution to such a “complex” problem and that a multidisciplinary and multiagency approach was required.
He also called on Plato to clear up allegations that he was siding with drug lords.
“He needs to clear up those drug allegations. They are detrimental. They (police officers) are supposed to confide in him, but how can they confide in him if such things exist? They should not define themselves through perception as taking the other side.”
Plato said last week that he believed the ANC was upset about sensitive information he received in a document from a citizen, and which he forwarded to the public protector.
“It is not my document, I am only the messenger. I welcome any investigation into the work I am doing.”
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