DEPUTY Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula has lambasted "shady characters" in the communities and urged the church and society to "push back" the tide of crime.
Mbalula was addressing the Community Church in Bisho, Eastern Cape, on Sunday.
Referring to recent court appearances of Pretoria's alleged crime kingpin William "Mashobane" Mbatha, Mbalula said some of these "individuals" fail to explain how they accumulated their wealth.
He said: "Our children have become vulnerable to shady characters twhom they have come to idolise and regard as role models.
"These are thugs who drive flashy cars, live in luxury houses, wear the best designer clothes and live large in the community.
"Opulence that is unaccounted for cannot be celebrated. We must ask hard questions and demand answers of those who flaunt wealth that might be ill-gotten.
"They can never be ours or our children's role models."
Mbalula said these were people "who organise a mob of hopeless yet innocent people to court in buses, so that he can be seen as a Robbin Hood of the township, as one poor soul in the celebrity circus once pronounced someone who has been arrested for a number of crimes".
These are not the role models we need in our society.
He commended the role church has played "as a partner in the fight against crime".
Mbalula said the church played an important role in mobilising the communities to fight crime.
Mbalula also decried corrupt officials in the South African Police Service. "We are also concerned about corruption by some of the police officials.
"We are concerned that in our day-to-day fight for a safer environment, police officers abuse the oath they took by being dishonest to the nation.
"We are fully aware that there are rotten potatoes in our system," Mbalula said.
He said in the Free State there were at least 107 corrupt police officials.
Those who seek to glorify criminals by placing them on a pedestal are as culpable of perpetuating the crimes those they hero-worship are guilty of, he said.
"The fight against crime is a collective effort that enjoins every patriotic citizen to champion the war against crime in all its manifestations.
"Criminals can run, but they can never hide," Mbalula told the congregation.