‘His priorities are mixed up’: John Steenhuisen slams Bheki Cele for deploying SANDF to beaches

DA leader John Steenhuisen took a swipe at police minister Bheki Cele.
DA leader John Steenhuisen took a swipe at police minister Bheki Cele.

DA leader John Steenhuisen has slammed police minister Bheki Cele for deploying the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to keep residents off beaches on the Garden Route.

This week Cele said the deployment of soldiers was to help enforce lockdown rules after 300 police officers tested positive for Covid-19 and 800 were in isolation.

“We have requested to have soldiers work with members of the police service because our own numbers are down,” said Cele.

Steenhuisen said SANDF members could be used to tackle far more serious issues like crime, rather than “chasing down surfers on the beach and the confrontation of sunbathers and joggers on promenades”.

He said Cele's priorities were skewed and condemned the deployment.

“Government was banning the sale of cooked food, cigarettes and telling citizens what they could wear, while other countries were busy with Covid vaccine plans. Now Cele is sending the army to the beaches while communities live in fear of real criminals. Priorities are mixed up,” Steenhuisen said.

He said the DA, over the years, had requested the deployment of the SANDF in gang-ridden areas of the Cape Flats, but the requests have “always fallen on deaf ears”.

He also questioned national police commissioner Khehla Sitole's role in the deployment.

“The SA Police Service are accountable to the minister but not under his command and it is worrying that the commissioner seems to have handed minister Cele the reins without so much as a pushback about the way his men and women in blue are being deployed,” said Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen said the deployment of SANDF to patrol beaches was an admission of failure on Cele's part.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that our national security personnel are being misused to serve the authoritarian agendas of ANC ministers hell-bent on controlling rather than governing.”

Steenhuisen's statement drew mixed reaction on social media. Some sided with Cele's decision, while others said the deployment was an “abuse of power”.

Here is a snapshot of some of the reactions.

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