Mr Mbalula said innocent people would inevitably get hurt
South Africa's deputy police minister has stood by his force's tough, shoot-to-kill policy, days after a three-year-old boy was shot dead by officers.
Fikile Mbalula said it was inevitable that innocent people would get caught in crossfire.
And referring to what he called "incorrigible criminals", he urged the police to "shoot the bastards".
The boy was killed on Saturday as police hunted a murder suspect, sparking a national outcry.
"Yes. Shoot the bastards. Hard-nut to crack, incorrigible criminals," Mr Mbalula said.
"Where you are caught in combat with criminals, innocent people are going to die - not deliberately but in the exchange of fire. They are going to be caught on the wrong side, not deliberately, but unavoidably."
South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime with an average of 50 killings each day.
The government is pushing through changes to the country's Criminal Procedure Act to make it clearer when police will be able to use deadly force.
But opposition parties and other rights groups say such a policy has caused a spike in the loss of innocent lives, pointing to a series of recent incidents where people have been killed by the police.
Three-year-old Atlegang Phalane was shot dead in Midrand, near Johannesburg, as he sat in the back seat of a car next to his uncle.
The police officer is reported to have said that he thought the boy was carrying a firearm, though according to Moses Dlamini, from the Independent Complaints Directorate, no gun or object which could have been mistaken for a firearm was recovered from the car.
Answering questions on the changes in the National Assembly, President Jacob Zuma said that the sheer level of violent crime in South Africa made it very different to other countries.
"We are saying we need to fight crime and that when criminals are cornered, they take out guns. They don't warn, they kill, and many police have died as a result of that," he said.
He said officers should be supported when they had to make difficult decisions.
"On the spur of the moment what do you do as a policeman? Should you say, because I'm a very good policeman I am here, I have got a gun but I'm not going to shoot you?" he said.