Is Cele’s ego more important than getting justice for real victims of cyber-crime?

Police Minister Bheki Cele and partner at Sona, 20 June 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles.

The SAPS has launched a probe into 160 fake social media accounts impersonating Police Minister Bheki Cele, while other fraud investigations against businesses and the public are placed on hold.

Since the lockdown started, real cyber-crimes that affect the public have exponentially increased, exposing individuals and businesses that are already under economic strain to online fraud and other crimes.

In response to a 2019 parliamentary question, the Hawks Cyber Crime Unit, now investigating Cele’s fake profiles, had 937 cases referred to it with a total fraud value of R7.9 billion, while only 178 of these cases could be successfully prosecuted with a total fraud value of only R23 million.

Despite very capable police officers within the unit, it is grossly under-funded, under-resourced, lacking sufficient cyber-forensic capacity and struggles to fulfil its obligations while retaining well-trained investigators within its ranks.

Furthermore, with the Cyber Crimes Bill not yet passed by Parliament, it is hard to see how these crimes would be prosecuted for spreading false news where a prior qualification is made that such an account is a parody account.

The only reason why fake accounts of a fake Cele making ludicrous statements would be believable is because the minister himself has been no stranger to making ludicrous statements in the past, not least during the lockdown.

If Cele is serious about fighting cyber-crimes, he should start by properly capacitating the unit charged with investigating it, so that they can do their jobs in the interest of the public, before focusing on the minister’s own vanity projects.

I will continue to demand of the department and the minister, as I have been doing for the past five years, to adequately fund and capacitate this unit so that ordinary South Africans falling victim to real cyber-crimes can have the same justice that Cele claims for himself.

Michalakis is a DA National Council of Provinces member of parliament for security and justice

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