Mbalula's #WanyaTsotsi campaign won't improve crime reporting‚ critics say
Mbalula this week invited the public to engage with him on his social media accounts and even report crime directly to him.
Many of the responses have tickled the funny bones of the minister's followers‚ while some were earnest calls for him to follow up on problematic trends like hijackings.
The Institute for Security Studies' Gareth Newham said Mbalula's campaign is‚ "certainly unprecedented for a government minister in a country where the police receive well over two-million reported cases of crime annually".
"He's inviting a deluge of reports. Unless you've got a clear system to ensure the SAPS can see this information and act on it‚ nothing will be achieved."
Mbalula's spokesperson Esethu Hasane said the number of genuine reports the minister has received on his social media accounts had not yet been counted as it had been just a few days since he tweeted: "Am here for you guys REPORT... crime am here.. Let’s gooooooooooooooo!"
"The minister has about 400 000 followers on Instagram‚ 135 000 likes on Facebook and 700 000 followers on Twitter‚ so he is definitely going to use those platforms to create awareness about the work of SAPS‚ beyond what [the police] are already doing. That is how you build public trust‚" Hasane said.
Mbalula has tweeted police success stories this week‚ including a mandrax bust in Cape Town and the arrests of two men accused of commercial crime in Mossel Bay.
"The government overall is saying ministers and deputy ministers should be on social media to get first-hand accounts of people's experiences of service delivery.
"People must still call 10111‚ they must still go to the police station. That's where you open cases. That's where you can open dockets. Even the minister will refer reports to those formal channels‚" Hasane said.
Newham said the #WanyaTsotsi campaign appeared to be a political ploy by Mbalula to show the public he cares about fighting crime and is innovative.
"I think one of his key jobs is to create public trust in the police‚ which has been lost. Good news doesn't in and of itself affect people's perception of the police. People's experiences are largely affected by how they experience the police first-hand and second-hand."
To build the public's trust the police must deliver better service‚ which Mbalula can ensure through improving police training‚ provision of equipment‚ the morale of officers and adherence to the service's code of conduct and ethics‚ Newham said.
To create an effective social media campaign Mbalula should contact other SMS and online crime-fighting initiatives‚ like Crimeline‚ to get a sense of what works and what does not‚ Newham said.
He added that if the minister wanted to understand the public's views on the police there was plenty of existing research for him to consult.
"You can't spin your way out of it. The police are simply not behaving as they should. There's no short cut to improving public perceptions."
The Democratic Alliance's shadow minister of police Zakhele Mbhele lashed out at Mbalula this week for comments he made a police parade‚ calling for officers to "fight fire with fire".
"Mbalula and [his deputy Bongani] Mkongi would rather revel in pomp and ceremony at a parade to honour their egos than get down to the very serious business of ensuring that SAPS members have the equipment‚ training and resources they need to make South Africa safe."
Many of Mbalula's followers commended the minister's campaign while others were not convinced it would succeed in creating real change.