Bheki Cele says he invited Khehla Sitole to KZN before July riots, but ‘for some reason’ he didn’t go

Police minister Bheki Cele claims he invited the national police commissioner to KwaZulu-Natal before the riots and looting erupted in July. File photo.
Minister Bheki Cele Police minister Bheki Cele claims he invited the national police commissioner to KwaZulu-Natal before the riots and looting erupted in July. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda/Business Day

Police minister Bheki Cele says he invited police commissioner Lt-Gen Khehla Sitole to join him in KwaZulu-Natal before former president Jacob Zuma handed himself over to the police.

“I invited the national commissioner to come to Durban. For some reason he did not avail himself to come,” Cele told the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings into the July riots and looting.

He said he and other officials opened an operational centre before the riots and looting started. The centre would facilitate Zuma’s move to prison.

“I would now and again speak to the commissioner because I found out that there was a talk with him and the general in Nkandla, which is what we were trying to avoid. We wanted to have one command.”

He said the police had been ready to execute the escorting of Zuma to prison.

“We were ready, as the police, with the group that was going to execute the escort of the former president.”

The reason there were not a lot of people gathered in Nkandla, Cele said, was because of the ground work the police had done.

“On July 7, I received an awkward call from a person I know who I had not spoken to. He is closely related to the president. He said let’s do something so there is no confrontation.

“I asked what should be done. So it cannot be true that it is only the police that worked on the movement of Msholozi [Zuma] from Nkandla to correctional services. There were extra efforts in getting Zuma to go to correctional services. We wanted everyone who could influence the operation,” said Cele.

The minister said a few days after Zuma had handed himself to the correctional facility, he received a report “that things were getting hot” in KwaZulu-Natal.

“At that time, things were getting worse [in KZN] and were starting in Gauteng, mainly in Alex.”

Cele said he was not convinced the Phoenix killings were purely driven by racism.

“I was not convinced the issue in Phoenix was pure racism. I said this is criminality that has taken the posture of racism.”

TimesLIVE


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