POLICE Commissioner Bheki Cele’s request to MPs that he be called “General Cele” from now on is faintly embarrassing.
It is never edifying to see a grown man openly cherishing tin-pot honorifics as if these will somehow improve his status.
But it is more than embarrassing — it is a symptom of the rolling back of over a decade of attempts to transform the police from a para-military force into a proper investigative outfit with professional standards.
Democratic South Africa inherited a sick police “force” that had been honed for decades into a machine of political oppression.
There were those within its ranks who performed heroic acts of crime fighting, but there could be no mistaking the intention of the apartheid state.
It wanted to criminalise the struggle against apartheid and it wanted the police to be the instrument of this agenda.
The result was that the police were loathed by communities who were on the receiving end of their harsh treatment.
There were specialised units such as the riot police and the security police who committed awful atrocities in the name of their political masters.
It has taken sixteen years of democracy for the police to begin to lose this image and for communities to embrace policemen as crime-fighting agents.
The ruling party’s decision to allow Cele to throw this progress out the window in favour of a return to the militarisation of the police will once more undermine this trust.
Military titles are there for one purpose only — to send a message that the police intend to act as a military force, one that uses violence rather than proper police work to accomplish its ends. Shame on you, Field Marshall Cele.
A POLITICAL storm has erupted over remarks made by former government minister, Kader Asmal.
On Monday, Asmal was highly critical of the idea of militarising the police service. The point he was making was that it was the re-militarisation of a service which the ANC had spent years demilitarising.
He focussed his assault on the person of Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula whom he accused of “low-level political decision-making”.
“The new administration is referring to the militarisation of the police. I have this former head of the youth league [Mbalula] who aspires to be secretary general of the ANC, ha, really, I hope I won’t be alive,” he said.
“He said we must militarise the police. We spent days and days in 1991 to get away from the idea of a militarised police force. [It's] extraordinary.
“This is a kind of craziness all of us have to take into account. It is part of that low-level political decision-making without reference to the Cabinet.”
Asmal went on to point to the absurdity of military ranks.
“If a station commander is made general, what is going to happen to the national commissioner of police? He is going to be ‘generalisimo’ or ‘il duce’ or Field Marshall. According to the Constitution, the president appoints the national commissioner of the police. You have to amend the Constitution and become the laughing stock of the world just to change a name.”
The response has been to demonise and dismiss Asmal. But where is the reasoned response to his criticism of re-militarising the police service?
All this will achieve is a retreat to violent methods instead of the proper criminal investigation required to put away criminals.
THE hacking of monster.com has imperiled the privacy of millions of job seekers who have posted their profiles — and the jobs they are seeking online.
It proves once more how fragile online security remains as developers battle to secure their sites against attack.
Apple has already released a security patch on the much-hyped iPhone which has been shown to be vulnerable.
The answer, however, is not to put your head in the sand and isolate yourself from the digital world. Rather, we should all take the security advice given to us by banks and retailers a lot more seriously.
A YEAR is a very long time. A year ago, The Times did not exist. I was sitting upstairs in my office as Deputy Editor of the Sunday Times, trying to come to grips with my new job as editor of the web site. The site had no Web 2.0 functionality, but Juliette Saunders and her team had valiantly started posting multimedia with very few resources. They were showing the way and there was excitement. Then we got a request from Rhodes University’s New Media Lab. They wanted their lecturers and staff up to Joburg to spend some time with us doing multimedia. They arrived and there was an immediate excitement around their presence. They moblogged their journey to joburg, they were blogging off their cell phones, they were experienced and active users of all the pioneering Web 2.0 applications and they were real bloggers with lots to say for themselves. Colin Daniels and Vincent Maher were speaking an addictive language, relentlessly focussed on the future, relentlessly innovative. It did not take long for me to say to myself: The future is sitting here with us right now and we can’t let the future escape and leave behind an empty shell. Among the students were Carly Ritz and Gregor Rohrig. A year later, Carly and Gregor are running multimedia at The Times, Colin is our new media strategist and we have a fully functioning integrated newsroom producing for print and online. And we have this week just welcomed another group of visiting students from the Rhodes New Media Lab …
The Manto Tshablala-Msimang story has proven to be a great test-case for our interactive operation. The Sunday Times interactive team* have driven a fantastic online package of news stories, timelines, documents and comment facilities. Carly Ritz and her team at The Times has brought multimedia to the party. It has all been turned around in record time by Tegan Bedser and the design team on the 4th floor.
We now have a full multimedia package on Manto and we will be feeding online comments back into The Times from tommorrow. The result has been a second consecutive day of record hits on the site. Yeeee-ha!
Laurice Taitz, Steven Van Hemert