Police National Commissioner Bheki Cele’s bullish stance on crime stats is not only wrong, it’s wrong-headed.
Cele was widely criticised this week for his assertion on SAfm that criminals could “use” the statistics and that this would complicate the police’s task.
He added that statistics were often used as a political instrument.
Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher in the Crime, Justice and Politics programme at the Institute for Security Studies, deftly rubbished Cele’s statements.
He told the M&G Online this week that withholding crime statistics would do more harm than good.
Burger said the police were not the custodians of crime figures, and that the South African Development Community and the Consumer Goods Council also kept crime figures.
Fear of political bashing was also a poor excuse, he said.
“You will always have parties who will use statistics as a handy tool to criticise. But you have to balance the advantages with the disadvantages. Political bashing disappears completely when compared to all the advantages [releasing the statistics] could have.”
For Burger, the “obvious reason” for calling a moratorium on the statistics was probably that “people within the police services have become oversensitive to criticism. That is the wrong reason. You cannot become less transparent just because you’ve been criticised. If crime statistics are not released the police will be even more criticised and people will draw negative conclusions from that.”
Cele backtracked, somewhat, few days later. Pressed on whether he supported a moratorium, he said: “I will support that. But I will support whatever we do that gives us an upper edge to fight the crime. If releasing stats help us to fight crime better, I will support that. If a moratorium helps us better, I will support that.”
The imbroglio brings to mind the political infighting seen in the crime mini-series The Wire. The series shows the backstabbing and intrigue in Baltimore, with politicians being elected on the back of a promising to reduce crime. They then put the squeeze on high-ranking police officials, who in turn come down on ordinary policeman. Those on the beat are then run ragged in their attempt to make up the numbers.
Crime remains one of South Africa’s major problems, and with the world’s gaze turning to the country ahead of 2010, there will be pressure to make a real difference on reducing crime. The commissioner needs to stop blustering about statistics and concentrate on what he is being paid to do. Take care of the crime and the statistics will take care of themselves.
|FULL SPEED AHEAD||NOT SO FAST|
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale spent a night this week in Diepsloot to get a better understanding of living conditions in the townships. Sure, it may be spin, but it’s heartening to see a politician actually getting out there.
Cele came under fire for comments he made on a radio show that seemed to back a moratorium on crime statistics. Hitting back at criticism, Cele claimed his words were twisted. Surely we have a right to know these statistics, particularly living a such a crime-ridden society.
July 30 to August 5
1. The fat of the land
While pay demands and service delivery protests cripple South Africa, government leaders are still receiving luxurious perks.
2. Zuma’s pantsula top cop
Critics might say that in exchanging Jackie Selebi for Bheki Cele, the country has gone from a police commissioner who consorts with gangsters to one who dresses like one.
3. Robert Mugabe ‘in bid to wreck unity’
Zimbabwe is on the verge of a new political crisis, amid growing evidence that President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has launched a strategy to wipe out the former opposition’s slim parliamentary majority.
4. Why go nuclear when better and cheaper options exist?
Eskom’s hikes in the electricity price by around a quarter and a third in two years and its need to repeat such price increases for the next three years bring one issue to a head.
5. Opposition condemns Cele’s appointment
Opposition parties said on Wednesday that President Jacob Zuma had made a big mistake in appointing a political ally with no professional crime-fighting experience as the new national commissioner of police.
6. M&G Oilgate exposé vindicated
The Mail & Guardian welcomed Thursday’s ruling by Judge Ntsikelelo Poswa of the Gauteng North High Court overturning Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana’s report on the Oilgate scandal.
7. No more ‘jobs for the boys’
Black economic empowerment will be interpreted differently by the Western Cape government, which is now controlled by the opposition Democratic Alliance.
8. The daddy of all misfortunes
Many people who know my six-year-old son can attest to this, so these are not just the boastful ramblings of a proud mom.
9. DA: ANCYL ‘setting an appalling example’
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has laid charges against the leadership of the African National Congress Youth League (ANC) and board members of its investment arm, Lembede Investment Holdings.
10. Opposition parties band together to unseat the ANC
Unity talks between opposition parties are under way in bid to challenge the ruling party at the polls, they said on Sunday.