Media Statement of the Public Protector South Africa on the Retraction by the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service of a Public Statement that Referred to a Murder Suspect, Mr Shrien Dewani, as “A Monkey”

In December 2010, Adv Paul Hofmann SC, the Director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, lodged a complaint with the Public Protector in connection with a public statement made by the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, Gen B Cele, which was widely perceived as having referred to Mr Shrien Dewani, a British murder suspect, as “a monkey”.

Adv Hoffman held the view that the statement was improper, unlawful and could have a negative impact on the extradition proceedings in respect of Mr Dewani that are currently in process in the United Kingdom.

The Public Protector raised the complaint with the National Commissioner, and discussed her views on and Gen Cele’s response to the complaint with him. The matter was resolved when Gen Cele provided the Public Protector with the following statement, signed on 5 April 2011:

“I refer to a fairly recent comment attributed to myself in the course of a media enquiry relating to a British murder suspect, one Mr Shrien Dewani. A statement by myself contained a reference to the word “monkey”. The comment attracted media attention and debate about, for instance, its derogatory nature and possible impact on a pending trial. It was not my wish to generate or even participate in any such debate.

I have taken note of some of the reactions. The comment was however made with no intent to harm or offend anyone. In this regard, it is my wish to reiterate my respect for the Constitution and all the rights it enshrines. I believe the South African Police Service has to move on and focus on carrying out its commitment to ensuring that everyone in this country is safe, and does feel safe.

I therefore wish to retract the use of the word

The Public Protector accepted the National Commissioner’s statement of retraction and Adv Hoffman was informed accordingly.

The matter is therefore regarded as closed.

Issued by:

Kgalalelo Masibi
Senior Manager: Outreach, Education and Communications
Tel: (012) 366 7069
Cell: 079 507 0399

Published Date: 
Monday, April 18, 2011