Durban – Bheki Cele is well known for his controversial statements but the police minister’s latest comments about rape has been met with shock and outrage across the country, already battling an epidemic of gender based violence.
Organisations have called for him to be fired, saying he is not fit to hold the position, and a petition launched by the DA against Cele’s latest blunder has attracted nearly 30 000 signatures.
About 100 men have been arrested for the gang rape of eight women at an unused mine in Krugersdorp where they were filming a music video last week.
During an interview this week, Cele said one of the women was “lucky” she had “only” been raped by one man.
Actor and comedian Siv Ngesi dubbed him the “Monster of Police” on social media.
The comment was made just weeks after Cele revealed that sexual offences had increased by 13.7% and that 10 818 people had been raped in the first three months of the year. Of that, 4 653 rapes took place in the home of the victim or the rapist.
Childline, an organisation which works with children in vulnerable situations, said the minister’s latest statement about rape was a direct indication of how the justice system failed its victims.
Childline KZN acting director Adeshnie Naicker said: ”The implication of that statement undermines the trauma of a raped woman. Trauma cannot be quantified. A woman raped once or multiple times is still a victim and should not be made to feel as though her trauma is not warranted.”
In its response Rape Crisis said to call a survivor “lucky” dismissed the enormous pain and injustice inflicted by sexual violence.
Rape Crisis counselling coordinator Ronel Koekemoer, said:“It suggests that some forms of sexual violence are worse than others. It also reinforces the idea that violence is an expected reality for women and children; one where they should be ‘grateful’ that they endure certain kinds of violence and not others. This says to survivors that what happened to them is acceptable and expected.”
She said the message from the South African police should be one of reassurance that any sexual offence was unacceptable and should be punished as such.
Sonke Gender Justice spokesperson Bafana Khumalo, said they were shocked and appalled by Cele’s statement, but it was not unusual for the minister to utter such reckless statements.
“It’s completely unacceptable, any form of rape is unacceptable. We wish the minister would desist from making such statements,” said Khumalo.
He said the community around the area where the women were raped had complained about crime in February, but eight women had to be raped before any action was taken.
“The president really needs to look if he has the right minister in the right place,” said Khumalo.
He said rape was the most heinous crime and it was appalling for Cele to make comparisons.
Member of Parliament and the DA spokesperson for policing Andrew Whitfield, said Cele’s reaction to the Krugersdorp rapes demonstrated that he was completely out of touch with the issues of gender based violence, insensitive to the issue and disconnected from the lived reality of ordinary South Africans.
These were just some of the reasons the DA had started a petition calling for Cele to be fired, said Whitfield.
Cele’s spokeswoman Lirandzu Themba said she could not provide any comment on the questions related to his comments on the rape.
“Not at this stage. He will address the matter in person,” she said.
Here are some of the other comments made by Cele previously:
“A monkey came all the way from London to have his wife murdered here. Shrien thought we South Africans were stupid when he came all the way to kill his wife in our country. He lied to himself.” Cele on Shrien Dewani whose wife Anni was murdered in South Africa.“A self-made, arrogant, non-accountable individual who purports to be a good citizen and I will dare to argue that he is also a racist”. Cele, then a MEC in KZN, on a motorist who reported him to the media when his blue light convoy drove recklessly.“When you have a tattoo, we don’t hire you because you have a tendency of being a gangster.” Cele on the police’s recruitment policy.
The Independent on Saturday