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Cablegate: South Africa's New Police Commissioner Hits The

VZCZCXRO0252
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #1717/01 2370731
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250731Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9418
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 001717

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/S AND INL/AAE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PINR SF KCRM WMN SOCI PREL
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICA'S NEW POLICE COMMISSIONER HITS THE
GROUND RUNNING

1. (U) Summary: President Zuma recently appointed
Bhekokwakhe Hamilton Cele as South Africa National Police
Commissioner (SAPS). Cele replaces former Jackie Selebi, who
was placed on administrative leave in January 2008 following
allegations of corruption. In the interim, the SAPS suffered
from lack of leadership and by association remained under a
cloud of suspicion. Selebi's contract finally expired at the
end of June 2009. With the appointment of Cele as
Commissioner, the SAPS has an opportunity to put the Selebi
era behind it and move forward. Post offers below background
on South Africa's new top cop. Cele's very active first
weeks in office offer promising signs that the former teacher
and longtime ANC insider is serious about tackling crime.
End summary.

---------------------------------
BACKGROUND ON THE NEW POLICE BOSS
---------------------------------

2. (U) Bheki Cele was born on April 22, 1952 in uMzumbe near
Port Shepstone, KwaZulu Natal (KZN). Cele's mother died when
he was nine months old, and his father died when he was in
high school. He was raised by relatives and was a
disciplined student. In a local interview, Cele said, "I
remember when I was doing matric, I only had one shirt but it
was the cleanest in the class. The teachers asked me if I
had a new shirt for everyday, and were amazed when I told
them that I only had one shirt and washed it every evening."

3. (U) As a young teacher at Mbumbulu south of Durban, Cele
joined the ANC underground and was instrumental in founding
the National Education Union of South Africa, now known as
the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU). In the
early 1980's, Cele joined the United Democratic Movement
(UDF), and founded youth organizations aligned to the African
National Congress. In 1984, state police attempted to arrest
Cele for his political activities, but he managed to escape
and fled to Angola, where he met Jacob Zuma and joined the
ANC's military wing, UMkhonto weSize. In 1987, Cele was
smuggled back into South Africa but was soon captured by
state police and imprisoned on Robben Island until 1990.
Upon his release, Cele continued his involvement with the ANC
and was tapped to co-ordinate the organization's security and
peace initiatives. In 1994, he was elected to the KZN
Provincial Executive Committee and became a member of the
KwaZulu-Natal Legislature. He also served as the chairperson
of the Safety and Security Portfolio Committee and the
chaired the chairpersons of the KZN Legislature. In 2001,
Cele was appointed the chairperson of the biggest ANC region
in KZN, eThekwini (Durban Municipality). He is credited for
getting the eThekwini region to back Zuma prior to the 2007
ANC Polokwane conference.

4. (U) In 2004, Cele was appointed KZNMEC (member of
Executive Council a provincial "Minister") for Transport,
Community Safety and Liaison. Under newly elected KZN
Premier Zweli Mkhize, Cele retained his cabinet position as
MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison. He is a
member of the KZN Provincial Legislature and a member of the
KZN Executive Council. Cele is also a member of the National
Executive Committee (NEC)

5. (U) In 2004, he launched Catching Crime on the Highway, an
initiative to unite the crime fighting efforts of the road
traffic inspectorate and the KZN South African Police
Services (SAPS). Cele is a flamboyant person and is known for
QServices (SAPS). Cele is a flamboyant person and is known for
his brightly colored, matching Stetson hats and scarves.

----------------
LEADERSHIP STYLE
----------------

6. (SBU) Cele is a champion of rural development and as MEC
developed Operation kuShunquthuli, which brought road
infrastructure development to previously neglected rural
communities. Cele also took a strong stance against mini bus
related crime and reckless driving. Cele is a popular
political figure and consistently ranks as one of KZN's top
five ANC leaders. As MEC, Cele developed the reputation as a
no-nonsense crime fighter and has often exhorted local police
not to die with their guns in their holsters. He has often
intervened in mini-bus industry clashes and has shut down
mini-bus depots when violence could not be controlled. He
has drawn disapproval from members of the public for
defending the reckless driving of ministerial security
convoys. Interestingly, he has shunned VIP protection for
himself.

PRETORIA 00001717 002 OF 002

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PROPOSED CRIME MEASURES SPARK DEBATE
------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Barely one week in office, Cele called for a law
change to make sure police can shoot at dangerous criminals
instead of being "handcuffed." Cele plans to ask Parliament
to amend the Legal Code, Section 49 (guidelines for police
officers to us deadly force) when it reconvenes this month.
He said he would also ask for an amendment of Section 26
(Search and seizure without a warrant), to give police
greater powers to intervene in domestic violence. He told
Parliaments portfolio committee, the post-apartheid version
of Section 49 forced police to think twice before shooting.
Cele said the high number of police fatalities proved that
when faced with hardened criminals, they could not afford to
hesitate. It was up to Members of Parliament to "take
collective responsibility" to ensure the law was fair and did
not afford criminals "greater rights" than their victims. He
said Section 26 of the act must change to remove the onus on
police to ask permission before entering premises where
domestic abuse is under way. "We have a man (beating) his
wife and (police have to say) "please can I come in."

8. (U) Cele said he has committed his services to ensuring
the murder and rape is not the norm. The commissioner just
recently wrapped up a tour of all nine provincial police
stations in South Africa. Cele met with all divisional
commissioner and management officers to discuss crime
fighting initiatives. He said Senior Commissioners will
spend time in problematic policing areas so they can have
first hand experience of how to deal with such issues. He has
also tasked his commissioners with ensuring coming up with
strategies of cracking down on shopping center robberies.

9. (SBU) Bheki Cele commented that he wants to create a
country "where people aren't told they're safe, but actually
feel safe", and that he is on a mission to change the image
of the police and boost their morale. As history has shown,
high levels of morale are a preconditions for peak
performance that is required for ensuring the safety of
visitors and locals alike, especially at times of hosting a
major international event like the FIFA 2010. The outspoken
Cele said his mandate is to ensure that all South Africans
are safe where ever they are. He remarked that the country
should strive to reach a point where rape and murder is
viewed as abnormal. He said that he would like one day for a
young girl to be able to walk alone from a nightclub or else
where without any fear of attack, abuse or rape. The
controversial Cele, known as something of a Durban fashion
trend setter, has proudly donned a police officer's uniform
and is making an impressive debut as South Africa's new top
cop.


GIPS

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