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Opening remarks by the Minister of Police, The Honourable Nkosinathi Nhleko on the occasion of the official Opening of the Dysseldorp police station

Western Cape, 25 March 2017.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to join this community as we open the Dysseldorp Police Station.

I know many of us still refer to our local police facility as a charge office. This is one of the reasons we have decided to turn what used to be called a charge office, a Customer Service Centre. 

A charge office for instance says much about our recent past.  Among others, it suggests that the facility was nothing else but a place where people were charged for all manner of crimes. We also know that in the days of apartheid where many of our people’s human rights were violated, at times even the charges that one faced, were in fact charges that sought to intimidate people into submission. These were charges meant to terrify our people so that they stop at once to advocate and fight for non-racism, non-sexism and the birth of a society of equals. In short, abandon the fight for freedom and democracy.

Also, Charge Offices were notorious for torture, detention without trial and even horrific incidents of death while in detention. In short, police facilities were major instruments in the abuse of human rights and the principles of equality before the law.

As we marked Human Rights Day this week in honour of innocent civilians who were murdered by the police at Sharpeville in 1960, the president of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma used this historical day to pay tribute to Steve Bantu Biko. Many of you will remember that Biko was a freedom fighter who died at the hands of the police after endless hours of torture in a police cell. 

There are so many stories of horror that today are part of our collective memory, that also tell us so much about the legacy of our charge offices and our police stations.

Fellow South Africans, the South African Police Service is an integral part of our society, and derives its direction and purpose from the Constitution. The SAPS is part and parcel of the commitment of all our people to ensure that we all live in a peaceful, secure and safe society. Without safety and security, so much falls apart as criminals take advantage and render our lives nightmarish.

The opening of this police station in this community characterised by abject poverty, high unemployment and violent crime, is our genuine response to the needs and demands of the people of the Eden Cluster in general and Dysseldorp community in particular. We are here to extend a warm hand of friendship.

The ANC Government is committed to serving all our people and treating them in a just and fair manner. We listened and heard you clearly when you asked and demanded that we make the SAPS a permanent presence in this community. This facility is not for the SAPS, it is for the community and must reflect the needs and concerns of this community. Take good care of it and protect it.

We now call former charge offices Customer Service Centres for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we do so because we have realised that as members of the SAPS we are and must be servants of the people. Being servants of the people means among others; that we must be dedicated, humble, reliable, and trustworthy. Secondly, we have taken this move to register the value we attach to human life and the belief that the role of the SAPS is primarily to contribute to human dignity and the protection of human life.

We must always be willing to go an extra mile when attending to complaints and needs of our people. We must love and protect our people and win their trust and full confidence. There is no place in our Customer Service Centres for arrogance, laziness, disrespect and treating people who enter our facility with disdain and dishonesty. 

An SAPS member who is rude does not represent the SAPS and our government, and must consider looking for a new job. SAPS must and can play a big role in promoting social cohesion and a humane sense of communal belonging.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against crime in our communities is not just a responsibility of the police alone. We must all do our best to rid our communities of crime and various negative consequences. Crime renders unmanageable and is often perpetuated by people who live in our communities. We must ensure that we do not allow our homes to be places in which we criminality is tolerated and regarded as a way of life or survival.

Our homes, schools, and places of worship must play an even bigger role in keeping broader society safe and secure. We all know that criminals in our communities are a tiny minority, and must do all we can within the law to isolate and expose them. We must nonetheless always realise that when we are angry and frustrated with criminals, this does not gives us the right to take the law into our hands. When we assault suspects, destroy property, loot and burn, we too are committing crime and may be arrested and face the full might of the law. Street justice is not justice at all but a crime.

Acts of crime in our homes such as the physical and emotional of our partners, children, the physically weak and elderly, are also crimes we must fight as a community.

The fight against crime requires faith. We must never forget that faith, like values is not a birth right. It is acquired through self-discipline, humility and the gift of wisdom. As Dr Martin Luther King succinctly puts it; “Faith is taking the first step even if you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Against immense odds, we are doing our best in the SAPS to act in accordance with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Above all, we endeavour to act with a firm belief that we all account to a Supreme Being.

We are committed to justice and the rule of law. The SAPS is by no means a perfect institution, but one that strives to do right every time.

We are committed to serving this nation diligently, professionally and with a great deal of respect for the rights of all. The Bill of Rights informs our philosophical ethos and we know with the support of broader society we can achieve more.

We are gravely concerned about crimes against women and children, drug and alcohol abuse in our society. We are also concerned about the continuing senseless murder of SAPS members. In the Western Cape in particular, gang violence is deeply disturbing and warrants all of us to wake up to its short-term and long-term negative impact on our society.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against organised crime is fundamental to making our freedom and democracy meaningful. Given the socio-historical baggage that in the main is reflected in the various categories of crimes that beset South Africa today, we must admit that the SAPS and its various agencies are playing a pivotal role in nation-building and social cohesion.

Members of the Hawks and all SAPS units, are and must be restless agents of building South Africa from its unjust and unequal past to one of democracy, peace, and equal opportunities for all.

We must face it, as we accelerate the fight against crime, enemies from all walks of life emerge and seek to use various dirty tricks to rubbish us and even threaten our lives. We must never look back but must forge ahead and fight crime without fear or favour.

The fight against crime is a fight for our freedom, for our human rights, especially the right to life and the right to peace and security.

Thank you for your time ladies and gentlemen.