‘My name is being tarnished for political reasons’: Sitole claps back at Cele

The police commissioner says he is shocked by Cele's allegations that he plotted for the minister's removal.

National police commissioner, Khehla Sitole has clapped back at his boss Police Minister, Bheki Cele.

This is after Cele made scathing accusations during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) debate on Monday that Sitole had colluded with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Leader Julius Malema to have him removed from Cabinet.

Sitole said in a statement on Tuesday that he was shocked by Cele’s allegations, adding that “his name and image is being tarnished for political reasons”.

The police commissioner confirmed that he met with Malema during a meeting, which was initiated by the Ministry of Police.

He said the meeting was held specifically at the behest of the deputy police minister, Cassel Charlie Mathale.

ALSO READ: Cele to unrest inquiry: I don’t recall seeing top cop Sitole in the ‘right places’

“The deputy minister requested General Sitole to meet with Julius Malema to address potential threats against him,” National police spokesperson, Vishnu Naidoo said.

“Mr Malema met with the national commissioner and the head of protection and security services [PSS], lieutenant-general, Sam Shitlabane in 2020 at the Tshwane Training Academy.

“The meeting was solely about the alleged threats against Mr Malema and nothing else to which feedback was provided to the deputy minister. The national commissioner was under the impression that the Minister was aware about the content of that meeting given that it was facilitated by his deputy,” the statement further reads.

Cele made the accusations after several opposition parties raised concerns that the police minister remained in his position despite the damning findings against him in the report relating unrest that took place in July last year.

“Honourable Malema, on the 10th of December 2020 there was a meeting between yourself and the national commissioner to plot that I must be chased so I’m not surprised that today this is happening.

“He has all the rights to make the suggestion, but what I don’t like is being patronised. If you don’t want me as a minister don’t put me in other places. It’s not your duty,” said Cele at the time.

The working relationship between Cele and Sitole has for a long while been shaky, with the police minister firing the lastest shots against the police commissioner.

“I want a national [police] commissioner that will work together in a full understanding that our job is not [aligned] to factions, but the person, when it comes to crime intelligence, we [must work] together and walk in unison both physically and mentally. Our first prize is to deal with crime,” he told the SABC outside the Cape Town City Hall last week.

READ MORE: Cele gives sneak peek into icy relations with top cop Sitole

When asked if he was working together with Sitole to carry out their duties, Cele said: “Even today he is not here. I was moving around the laboratories [and] he’s not there.

“Most of the time I find myself working with the deputies. Maybe you can ask him why most of the time the minister is working with the deputies rather than the man himself.”

Sitole has since denied that he was absent in Parliament during Sona.

“This is also not correct. The national commissioner is invited by the President as it is customary to do so in each Sona.

“Same was done this year and [Sitole] attended the Sona of 2022. The records of Parliament will confirm the national commissioner’s attendance,” Naidoo concluded.