Bheki Cele thunders back onto the Cape Flats with fire and brimstone

Some of the 269 police officers who have been deployed to Operation Thunder, the “stabilisation and normalisation” operation that will run on the Cape Flats for 90 days.
Some of the 269 police officers who have been deployed to Operation Thunder, the “stabilisation and normalisation” operation that will run on the Cape Flats for 90 days.
Image: Nashira Davids

The former police commissioner is back — this time as minister — and he wants the Cape Flats to know “Bheki Cele and his boys were here”.

Dressed in black and wearing one of his signature Panama hats‚ Cele arrived at Mitchells Plain Indoor Sports and Recreation Centre on Tuesday to introduce the community to the 269 police officers of Operation Thunder.

The “stabilisation and normalisation” operation will run for 90 days in the gang-infested Cape Flats and surrounding areas.

It will include suburbs such as Nyanga‚ Manenberg‚ Kraaifontein and Hanover Park‚ which make daily headlines for murder‚ rape and drug-related crime.

The police minister listened to members of the community bemoaning the high levels of crime. Some told him they had no confidence in the police; other saluted the high-ranking officers flanking him.

Cele did not fail to evoke emotion among the crowd and even police officers struggled to hide their amusement at his off-the-cuff statements about criminals.

To the community he said:

  • “I am not a supporter of Liverpool …. But don’t make these officers walk alone.”
  •  “We don’t want the drug sellers‚ we don’t want the small fish. Show us the bosses’ doors … [those who] make money from the blood of our kids … We are not here for the servants. We are here for the lords.”
  • “Help us‚ don’t hide criminals in your houses … It will be better if you ask them to join us. It won’t be nice when we fetch them from your houses … we will find them in the fridges‚ we will find them under the bed‚ we will find them in the kitchen‚ we will find them on the beach‚ we will find them on the streets. Whoever we want‚ whoever we need.”
  • “Don’t try and defend the [criminal] because he is your boyfriend. We will take you both and give you a free meal and a free room. Free!”
  • “This morning we took a 5 o’ clock train from Khayelitsha to [Mitchells Plain] … I don’t want to be on a train again. If someone invites me on the train again I will say: ‘Thank you boetie‚ can I walk’?”
  • “We will be knocking on the doors. But sometimes I want to tell you‚ we won’t knock‚ we will kick the doors.”
  • “Sometimes we need to declare war for peace to prevail …That is why we are here to declare war on criminality.”

To the 269 officers he said:

  • “This space [the Cape Flats] is too small. There is no space for criminals … If any criminals want space‚ squeeze them and squeeze them hard.”
  • “Cape Town is a tourist city … but we are not tourists‚ we are here to work. Don’t think you are here to look at the mountain … look at the criminals.”
  • “I don’t work with soft people. I want you to be tough‚ I want you to be soft like doves but tough like serpents.” • “Don’t come and die here. I’m not sending you here for body bags. You are here to serve with all humanity — I order you. Nobody must die with a gun in their hand.”
  • “You – I love you. Please take my love and give it to communities. Love them‚ work with them. and don’t disappoint.”