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Five key takeouts: Top cop says crime intelligence was outsmarted by July unrest organisers

The commissioner said organisers of the riots outsmarted police and used technology to plan unrest, which SAPS was unable to act upon due to limited resources

01 December 2021 - 13:30
Police commissioner Khehla Sitole has told the SA Human Rights Commission there was no intelligence report before the outbreak of violence in July. File photo.
Police commissioner Khehla Sitole has told the SA Human Rights Commission there was no intelligence report before the outbreak of violence in July. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

National police commissioner Khehla Sitole says police crime intelligence was outsmarted by organisers of the July unrest because they used technology to plan it.

Police only had the early warning report containing information already in the public domain, he told the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearing on the violent riots and looting in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. 

Crime intelligence not sufficiently equipped 

The organisers of the riots outsmarted police by using technology to plan unrest, which SAPS was unable to act upon due to limited resources.

“Part of the modus operandi applied during the unrest was that they resorted to technology and the technological resourcing at the CI at the present moment requires a serious upgrade. During the time of the unrest they did not have a sufficient budget and other resources.” 

Too busy to visit areas affected by the unrest 

Sitole said he was too busy monitoring the violence to visit any of the affected areas.

“I needed to dispatch senior officers to take care of the situation as the demand was put on the table ... I needed to get a bird’s-eye view because the whole country was under siege and therefore I would not have gone to a specific area because I needed to have a view of all the areas and control the whole country,” he said.

Sitole under pressure 

Sitole dismissed claims that he did not communicate with police minister Bheki Cele about the unrest. The situation required him to act swiftly by way of appointments before he could alert the minister. 

“If a situation requires police intervention, it is the national commissioner who must determine the deployment and how the situation must be addressed. I will then indicate to the minister the situation after I have already deployed [personnel].

“The situational demand is such that by the time I inform the minister about an incident, I shall have already made a decision to deploy or shape a particular response,” he said. 

Communicating with Cele

Sitole said he issued instructions from the command centre in Pretoria where he was able to communicate with provincial commissioners and Cele.

Asked if he made any effort to contact Cele, who has claimed that Sitole was “nowhere to be found”, the commissioner said there are multiple channels to communicate, none of which were used during the unrest.

“Everyone who was looking for me during the unrest found me and could access me. Starting with my phone, it was on. The whole communication system at SAPS was activated and no-one was found to be looking for me,” he said. 

No post-matric qualifications 

Responding to evidence leader Smanga Sethene, Sitole said he did not have a national diploma in policing which his subordinates had. Asked whether he deemed it necessary to have a tertiary qualification, Sitole disagreed.

“I will not agree. It depends on your assessment, but at the same time it also depends on practical experience. The post of the national commissioner was put forward with particular criteria. The qualification you referred to was not necessarily part of the criteria,” he said.


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