An answer to crime?
I've watched the media coverage of our flamboyant new national police commissioner Bheki Cele with mild amusement only because to my mind, he dresses with the very same panache as only the smoothest bosses of organised crime have become familiar for.
28 Aug 2009 15:16
With his penchant for wide-brimmed Panama hats, pin-striped or crisp white designer suits and punishing workouts at the gym, Cele could also fit seamlessly in a John Wayne movie, smashing through the wooden door shutters of a dusty bar, his hands resting on his holsters in trembling anticipation of a vicious gunfight.
The announcement of his appointment at the Presidential Guest House a month ago in front of the police's top brass, came with a resounding reminder from the President of his pledge during the State of the Nation address to tackle crime head-on.
“Cowboys don't cry. We need to be tough,” the tough-talking new police chief told reporters, vowing that he would use “deadly force” against violent criminals. “Deadly means you will die, that's what it means.
“To my policemen, I repeat, if a criminal points a gun at you, shoot first and shoot hard.”
The former rather controversial KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport and community safety has certainly shown his mettle in his beating down of crime levels in a jurisdiction beset with taxi violence and cash-in-transit heists.
But there are other less reputable issues to take into account. The 57-year-old top cop has been lambasted for his lavish lifestyle, criticised for dating women almost 40 years his junior, and teased for his love of talking tough to cameras.
More serious perhaps are the accusations that he is an apologist for aggressive blue light VIP drivers accused of pushing motorists off the road, and that he “protected” a close friend in a drunken-driving case in which two people lost their lives.
“Cele is a township tsotsi,” said a pump attendant at my local garage. “But he deals with criminals the way the people in the townships deal with them. And can that be a bad thing?”
Like most South Africans, let's hope that Cele is the hands-on crime-buster this country needs. A man who will lead the beleaguered SAPS to new heights and one in which criminals will be outgunned and policeman will be treated with new respect.