He disclosed that 1,295 people have been arrested for violating lockdown conditions in the area of Embalenhle in Secunda, during a visit to the township to observe operations to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.
He said people of that township had a “tendency of not listening”.
“I hear them crying that cops and soldiers are brutal. Not listening to us is brutality,” Cele said.
He emphasised his stance that the ban of alcohol during the 21-day lockdown period would not be relaxed.
“I just hope that one day there will be no liquor.
“I don’t run the country but what has happened when you look at the crime stats, for that fact that shebeens are closed, people are sleeping. They don’t move around here in shebeens and taverns being uncontrollable,” [sic] he said.
“We must cherish this time and take some lessons forward,” Cele added.
He expressed concern over instances where people broke into liquor shops instead of those for food, highlighting that this showed where their priorities stood.
“Stop making this request for bottle stores to be opened for three hours. There are no bottle stores that will be opened here, not until the 16th,” Cele said.
There were chuckles from the crowd when Cele encouraged them to drink – with a proviso.
“Drink, drink a lot… of water,” he said.
Mpumalanga has deployed over 17,000 police officers in the province to enforce the Covid-19 regulations.
Cele said police were pulling all the stops to ensure the safety of people during this time, but those who have been reckless, especially when it came to the use of social media, are now behind bars.
Eight people had been arrested for abusing social media since the start of the lockdown. “We have arrested eight of these people including two young people [on Monday] at KwaNongoma. They took their father’s uniform and made a call that everybody must go buy liquor, saying ‘Bheki Cele is dead’ while wearing the uniform of the police,” Cele said.
He said social media has the potential to be destructive.