South Africa News

Police Minister Bheki Cele appeals with judiciary to deny bail to dangerous suspects

Police Minister Bheki Cele has appealed to the judiciary to keep suspected criminals behind bars and not to “dish out bail like it’s hot scones”.

Cele made the remarks in Boksburg at the ongoing three-day national conference on the integrated criminal justice system, and review of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977.

He wants members of the judiciary, who include magistrates and judges, to help the police’s crime-fighting efforts by removing accused people or suspected dangerous criminals from society.

“Bail should not just be dished like hot scones. Really, we must find some way of dealing with the bail situation. I know we are putting a lot of pressure on the other system (correctional services) as the police. In the ongoing Operation Shanela we have arrested 442,000 people in 12 months,” said Cele.

He said in some instances, lawyers were working with rogue prosecutors to ensure that accused people were released on bail.

“Police work hard to arrest you. We do not just wake up and say today we want to arrest you. Sometime there is big pressure – why don’t you arrest so and so?

“There is one big case now of (murdered musician) AKA. But it is also a big problem when you arrest and let go,” said Cele.

“One thing that we really request is that we do better on bail issues. As I stand here, we have 64 CIT (cash in transit robberies) guys that are on bail, for cash heists. I know them by name. Judge, what happened? Police arrest well-known CIT guys, I can give you the list of them, they are well-known.

“We oppose and the guy doesn’t get the bail. But the lawyers and some prosecutors, they take that case to a small court that is not known, as a new bail (application) and that guy gets the bail without the IO (investigating officer in court). The IO only meets that somebody walking on the pavement,” he said.

The conference was earlier addressed by Deputy President Paul Mashatile on Tuesday was attended by Cabinet ministers, retired and serving judges, legal experts, and members of the government’s justice and crime prevention cluster.

Cele said the people released by courts on bail often revert to their criminal ways.

Additionally, Cele said the release of “known criminals” on bail has led to communities casting aspersions on the justice system, leading to a surge in acts of mob justice as communities take the law into their own hands.

Earlier, Mashatile told the conference that South Africa’s criminal justice system and democracy have been put to the test due to widespread corruption, criminality, gender-based violence, and femicide.

“Crime remains persistent despite the many strategies we have devised to fight it, such as increased police presence, community policing initiatives, and technological investments in surveillance and evidence collection.

“The prosecution and judicial systems are overburdened, the correctional service is overcrowded, and the police system continues to be besieged as the State fights to prosecute and punish criminal behaviour, frequently compromising on ‘zero-tolerance’ pledges to ‘punish at all costs’.

“Looking at these challenges, it is easy to grow despondent, but we must never be discouraged. Instead, we must double our efforts to reach our desired goal,” he said.

Mashatile noted that the legal system in South Africa has undergone significant changes since apartheid, aiming to ensure fairness and equal opportunities for all citizens.

Post-1994, the changes include a national crime prevention strategy, victim empowerment programs, and a diversion program for low-impact offences, to ensure a human rights culture.

Mashatile highlighted, that South Africa replaced the 1996 National Crime Prevention Strategy with the Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy (ICVPS), approved in March 2022 by Cabinet.

However, the deputy president expressed concern that many people in South Africa do not feel safe and secure, despite the government’s efforts.

“As government, we have put fighting crime and corruption as a top priority because it undermines human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

“We are tackling significant commercial and serious organized crime through the developed Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Operational Committee, currently known as the National Priority Crimes Operational Committee (NPCOC) under the South African Police Service Act.”

“Despite these crime intervention strategies and other initiatives, it is concerning the most recent Statistics South Africa Victims of Crime Survey indicates that confidence in our criminal justice system is declining.

“In other words, our people do not feel safe and secure,” he said.

Mashatile said South Africa cannot overlook issues that are endangering the economy, particularly in the construction sector.

The three-day conference hosted by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, is being held under the theme: “Strengthening the criminal justice to keep our people safe and secure”.

The event was also attended by Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery; Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko; members of parliamentary portfolio committees.

Other delegates included National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi; national commissioner of police, General Fanie Masemola; National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale; and national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya.

-IOL News