Police Minister Bheki Cele lost his cool after he was accused of failing to ensure the safety of residents in the Western Cape.
A community police forum on Tuesday saw a heated exchange between Cele and Action Society director Ian Cameron, who had raised concern about policing issues within the townships of Cape Town, such as Gugulethu and Nyanga.
“You are failing your own Constitution, and not fulfilling your mandate to safeguard [these communities]. I don’t see you patrolling the area at night with the people here,” Cameron told Cele.
“It’s unacceptable, sir. You talk down to the neighbourhood watches and don’t understand the policy framework. You are failing in your duties,” he said.
Cele, however, did not take Cameron’s words lying down.
“I did not join human rights battles yesterday. That’s why I was sent to prison. That’s why I was sent to Robben Island, because I was fighting for human rights,” Cele responded.
“Don’t teach me about human rights. Don’t talk to me about the safety of my people. I fought for it… I nearly died for it. Don’t provoke me… don’t tell me about things you have studied and you have heard.
“I have lived this life. I have lived the life of being African… I have lived a life where my mother was called a kitchen girl and my father was called a kitchen boy [so] I’m not going to take any nonsense from someone who considers me a garden boy,” the minister said before telling Cameron to “shut up”.
“Sit down and listen young man or get out!” Cele shouted.
Cameron was then forcefully removed from the venue by the police officers.
According to Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, Cameron “was removed after repeatedly interrupting a meeting despite being given a fair chance to raise his concerns prior, without any interruptions”.
“Mr Cameron was escorted out of the meeting after failing to stop his disruptive behaviour,” Themba said in a tweet.
Following his removal, Cameron issued a statement, saying Action Society would not “sit down and shut up” while crime spiralled out of control in the country.
“Cele is once again abusing the police force for political gain and holding authority over ordinary citizens.
“The Saps [South African Police Service] will never succeed in fighting crime if Cele stays in his position. Action Society will, however, continue to be a voice for the voiceless where the police neglect their duty,” he said.
Cameron said he would consider laying a charge of assault with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) against the police.
Action Society has since launched a petition calling for Cele’s resignation.