Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday said the South African Police Service (SAPS) is going to be “rough” in dealing with criminals across the country, but the intervention will be purely above the law.
“You know from statistics what is the state of crime and what is our response to that. Our generic statement at the welcoming ceremony still stand in relation to our attitude to criminals, and our attitude generally to fighting crime. We’re going to be rough, but we’re going to be legal,” Mbalula addressed the media in Pretoria after a meeting with the South African Policing Union (SAPU).
“There is nothing that is going to be executed outside the law. Our own police force must be protected and there is no element of recklessness that will be allowed.”
Mbalula said the good work of the SAPS cannot be overshadowed by the conduct of “a quarterly of few rotten apples within the system”.
He emphasised that the South African communities must also desist from harbouring criminals.
“Society must shape up its attitude, and make up its mind about criminals. We harbour these criminals. We buy all these things that are illegal that we got from rotten and criminal proceeds in our societies. We are going to need society to come on board,” said Mbalula.
The minister said he was not aggrieved by SAPU President Mpho Kwinika’s criticism. Mbalula, in his first public address as police minister this week, urged members of the SAPS “to meet fire with fire”.
In response, Kwinika said the police officers should not be trigger happy, as they would be left to fend for themselves when criminal lawsuits are initiated for the shooting.
On Thursday, Mbalula said he understood the SAPU criticism.
“What the president [Kwinika] raised the other day is not a criticism. It is an open, constructive engagement because they are in the environment. I don’t feel aggrieved by that. I feel very happy to work with people like that. They say we work here and this [meeting fire with fire] could have an implication to what we do. We are examining the environment,” said Mbalula.
The minister however maintained his tougher approach to criminals.
“In the next couple of weeks, we have no time. We’re not starting afresh, we only build up and amplify. We have said to the police, there is no holiday. We have to respond to what criminals are doing … Very soon and going forward, the work has begun, we’re gonna be merciless on those who think that using guns and terrorising society is their terrain and domain,” Mbalula said.
Kwinika said Mbalula had the union’s support.
“We’re going to make sure that we rally around you in addressing those issues we spoke to, this morning. There are requests we made to you, that our men and women outside there are doing a very good and sterling job. Criminals want to terrorise South Africans, and because they don’t want to go to jail, they will do anything at their disposal to ensure that whoever tries to stop them, they fight to the bitter end,” said Kwinika.
“We agree fully with you, when you say we should make that the resources at our disposal must look after us. Our police men and women out there must make sure that they do this in the ambit of the law.”