The Democratic Alliance on Monday urged new police commissioner Bheki Cele to retract a comment that he would support a moratorium on crime statistics.
”It quite frankly beggars belief that just a few days into his new job, the police commissioner would make such a blatantly politically-motivated and completely counter-productive announcement, and the commissioner must re-evaluate his position on this matter right away,” DA policing spokesperson Dianne Kohler Barnard said.
She urged him to ”immediately retract” the remarks he reportedly made in an interview on SAfm’s After Eight Debate programme.
Cele, who was appointed last week to replace Jackie Selebi, told the interviewer he would support a moratorium on releasing crime figures and appeared to suggest this could help the police.
He argued that criminals ”use” the statistics and that this could complicate the police’s task.
Cele went on to say that Interpol only supported the ”periodical” release of crime statistics and that no Latin American state has released figures for a long time.
He added that statistics were used as a political instrument.
Kohler Barnard said the claims were ”extremely dubious”.
”First, what evidence is there that criminals use annual crime statistics in the planning of crimes? In particular, it is frankly inconceivable that rates of crime for the entire country, sorted into broad categories, could ever be used by criminals to their benefit.
”Even more perplexing is the commissioner’s claim that no South and Central American countries have released crime statistics ‘for a very, very long time’.”
Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay all recently released crime figures, she said.
Kohler Barnard said complaining that opposition parties would use crime figures to criticise the government was not an excuse for withholding them.
”If crime statistics show the police service’s performance is deteriorating, this will rightly come under criticism; conversely, if the outlook is improving, the political party in power will take the credit.
”But it is surely not for a supposedly independent police commissioner to be considering any of these political ramifications as a basis for making decisions on crime fighting?”
Opposition parties last week gave Cele’s appointment a cool welcome, with most saying as a member of the national executive committee of the ANC and an ally of President Jacob Zuma, he was unlikely to show the necessary independence to do the job.
Police ministry spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the ministry would stick to its policy of releasing crime statistics once a year.
He added that the opposition was unhappy because it ”wants us to release statistics monthly, weekly”.
Cele’s spokesperson was not available for comment. – Sapa