The head of South Africa Police, Bheki Cele has told his men to shed the weight or risk being booted out of the force.
The Police boss wants his men to be fit ahead of the World Cup 2010 in order to keep both home and visiting fans safe, especially to be seen as a force that can protect the expected 400,000 fans this summer.
Mr Cele, in what appeared to be a stern warning for officers, albeit sounding humorous to pressmen present, said his men should fit in same-size uniform at the time of recruitment and for their whole careers. He said officers that need a larger size will be given a year to slim down or get kicked out of the force.
“Police officers should be able to walk with their heads held high, their stomach in, and chest out – not the other way around,” he said.
Crime in South Africa is high and the force has been criticised for been mostly unfit and too quick to deal with crime by pulling the trigger first, a ‘trigger-happy’ attitude. Those who can afford the luxury of private security policing are protected by well-manned and physically-fit security officers and prefer them to the ‘fat’ South African Police.
A handful of South African Police are in fact obese. In a recent study last month, it is estimated that nearly half of the police officers in Port Elizabeth are clinically obese.
Cele who yesterday during a press conference, completed an aerobics exercise, ran 400m and had a healthy breakfast to demonstrate the kind of lifestyle he wants his men to live, told his men there is no compromise.
“I’m sure they’ll shoot less and run more,” said former world boxing champion “Baby” Jake Matlala, who is supporting the programme. He said fitter police will make the country safer. Ex-Footballer, Lucas Radebe has also agreed to help with the programme which started last month with compulsory gym sessions for managers.