Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
30 Nov 2021
1:33 pm

Sitole responds to Cele statement that he was ‘nowhere to be seen’ during July unrest

Molefe Seeletsa

Khehla Sitole, at the SAHRC hearings, also dismissed claims that his phone was on silent during the unrest.

Picture File: Police Minister Bheki Cele briefs the media alongside National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole. Picture: Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Jaco Marais

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole returned to the witness stand on Tuesday to testify at the public hearings into the violent unrest and riots that swept through parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng in July this year.

During his previous appearance, Sitole told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that the South African Police Service (Saps) did not have enough members to effectively respond to the unrest.

Sitole said there were about 5,000 public-order police officers that were available at this stage, however, the country ideally needed around 12,000.

He said if the police had more members, their response to the unrest would have been more effective.

Intelligence report

On Tuesday, Sitole was questioned regarding an intelligence report about the unrest, which Police Minister Bheki Cele said he had not received, in a statement given to the SAHRC.

Sitole told the commission that not all intelligence reports were sent to Cele.

“I have already indicated that out of the routine intelligence products which are submitted as per the mandate of Crime Intelligence… I then generate and pick out what is relevant for the briefing of the minister.

“But the one obvious thing is that not all intelligence products in the form of reports are taken to the minister,” he said.

ALSO READ:  Saps ‘instability’: Warring Cele and Sitole urged to ‘strengthen relationship’

The police commissioner revealed that there was an early warning report received, however, it was not necessary to send the report to Cele.

He further explained that it was a normal routine intelligence report.

“Prior to the outbreak of the violence, I also personally did not receive a report that was relating to modus operandi pertaining to the violence. The early warning [report] did not pick the modus operandi,” Sithole said.

The Citizen previously reported that the Crime Intelligence division within Saps had sent out a number of “early warning” reports via email – between 9 July and 12 July – regarding the possibility of violence.

The email was then copied to Sitole, the Hawks and the National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC), among other police divisions, by a warrant officer who authored the email.

‘Nowhere to be seen’

The SAHRC also heard that Sitole was “nowhere to be seen” during Cele’s visit to KZN at the time of the unrest with the late deputy national commissioner Lieutenant-General Sindile Mfazi and provincial commissioners.

But Sitole defended himself, saying he instructed Mfazi to go to the province with the minister.

“The deputy national commissioner was deployed by virtue of my instructions. If the minister chose to work with the deputy national commissioner that was his prerogative,” he said.

He continued to say: “As I have previously explained, during the unrest I had the responsibility and there was a situational obligation for me to take that bird’s eye view because the whole country was under siege. Therefore, I could not have gone to a specific area.”

READ MORE: Cele and Sitole ‘beef’ continues ahead of Interpol summit

Sitole further dismissed claims that his phone was on silent during the unrest.

“I don’t want to dispel the fact that people were looking for me, but those who were looking for me at the right place did find me,” Sitole added.

The commission started its hearings on 15 November and they are due to end on 3 December.

Its hearings are looking into the causes of the apparent lapses in law enforcement by state security agencies, particularly the Saps, as well as the social, economic and political factors in the affected areas.

The 8-to-19 July riots resulted in more than 330 people losing their lives, and cost R25 billion in damages.

The violence was ostensibly sparked by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.