Sitole defiant over fitness to do the job despite police inaction in July unrest
In the hot seat at the SA Human Rights Commission’s hearing into the July unrest, national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole insisted that he was still fit to do his job.
Grilled on why he believed he could lead the SA Police Services when the country burnt, billions of rand were lost and people were killed under his watch during the unrest, Sitole denied that his actions were a gross dereliction of his duty.
Advocate Smanga Sethene put it to Sitole that he showed “brazen incompetence” in relation to the unrest.
“Why do you think that you are still fit to be police commissioner of SA? The material and brazen security lapses that embarrassed the country, the head of state could not even receive the intelligence report — why does Gen Sitole think he is still fit to be the national commissioner of police?
“Do you still want to do it when you have proven beyond doubt that you have failed? You have failed the country. You have conceded that an estimated R50bn has been lost. The country’s image has been dented. Investor confidence has nosedived. Why do you think you still deserve to hold the position?”
However, Sitole was not shaken by his words.
“I can still do the job. Because you and I didn’t go into the root-cause analysis of exactly the factors you are highlighting,” he said.
Earlier Sitole testified the police did not have any intelligence on the July unrest before widespread looting and riots hit Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Responding to minister Bheki Cele’s statement that he had not received any intelligence report before or during the unrest from police, Sitole said there was no intelligence report before the outbreak of violence in July.
Sitole agreed with Cele that the police had made no concerted effort to properly plan for the unrest. He said the police could not plan as they did not have accurate information before the events unfolded.
“The intelligence I am referring to was received during the time of the unrest, not before. There was no intelligence report in relation to the upcoming violence. There was no report to explicitly say that this is coming in terms of this modus operandi. It wasn’t picked up by all intelligence.”
He said an early warning had been issued but police “shared information that was already there which was in the public and operational domain”.
It did not share information on “who and what” and what the modus operandi of the unrest was.
“It did not tell us explicitly about the unrest.”
Despite being asked repeatedly by the commission what was in the early warning report, Sitole failed to reveal the details. He said the early warning report was not of “importance” to bring to Cele’s attention.
In his statement submitted to the SAHRC, Cele accused the police of failing to brief him, forcing him to work with “people on the ground” to get information about the unrest.
Cele said he had not received any early warning intelligence reports from Sitole about the unrest.
“The office of the minister, and the minister himself, did not receive any such early warning intelligence from the SA Police Service. The office has subsequently learnt that this report was seemingly distributed to, inter alia, the national commissioner, Gen Sitole, Lt-Gen Fannie Masemola, the deputy national commissioner for policing, and senior managers within the division Crime Intelligence,” Cele wrote.
Sitole testified on Tuesday that his relationship with Cele was governed by rules. This comes amid ongoing tension between the two.
“It is professionally normal and therefore in terms of the rules that we follow, our relationship is normal,” he said.
He said the directive is that he meets Cele once a week for a briefing.
“I do share intelligence with the minister on matters that relate to the minister. If there is an intelligence report that contains matters that do not relate to the minister, it is not necessary to share. But all those that relate to him, I do share.
“Matters that are purely operational, they do not relate to the ministers. Matters that require policy direction and political direction then I escalate them,” he said.
He added that not all intelligence reports are taken to Cele.
Sitole said his job was to make operational decisions.
“Sometimes, the minister may not see it the same way.”
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.