The energetic and humorous new Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, delivered an impassioned plea to service members to act “mercilessly towards criminals” and to “fight fire with fire”.
Mbalula made his first address at his official welcoming ceremony at the police training academy in Pretoria West on Tuesday alongside his newly appointed deputy Bongani Mkongi.
Mbalula replaced former minister Nathi Nhleko during President Jacob Zuma’s jaw-dropping Cabinet reshuffle last week.
The former sports and recreation minister said the country and the police force would not be “soft” towards criminals, hyping the crowd with witty remarks.
“I am appealing to civil society, when criminals are gun-toting in communities and terrorising and killing police, when we fire back, don’t complain. Don’t say Mbalula and Bongani [Mkongi] are coming with this thing of ‘shoot to kill’. Shoot back! Don’t retreat! We are tired of burying crime fighters,” he said to a cheering crowd.
“We must not smile with heavily armed and dangerous criminals. We must nail them. We must be merciless. The Human Rights Commission will find us on the way. We won’t be governed by criminals and they should be put in their place,” he said.
Speaking on uplifting staff morale among police members, Mbalula said he would add a “vibe of having a bit of fun” and would look at uplifting the spirits of police in the new position.
“You can talk bad about me, but you are going to have fun. I must uplift your spirit and reconstruct and develop the soul.”
Following his appointment, the minister, an active social media user, took to more than 700 000 Twitter followers, urging them to report crimes to his inbox.
He told the media that his online presence was part of mobilising citizens to join in reducing the crime rate.
“Twitter is quicker to report crime, but not to open a docket. If people inbox me, I will refer it to relevant department. Real crime is when Senzo Meyiwa was shot and no arrests were made.”
Acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, welcomed the new appointed ministers, reminding the police members that the president constitutionally appointed them. “We commit ourselves as South African Police Service members to take guidance and direction from honourable minister [Mbalula] in the execution of our work.
“There can never be competition between the minister and the national police commissioner as the constitution provides what the roles are. Our mandate is to work together to make sure a safe and secure environment is realised.”