Growing tensions did not bode well for the country leading into the July unrest which resulted in widespread looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and more than 300 people dead.
Cele publicly blamed Sitole for the police’s inability to quell the riots.
Cele and Sitole's love-hate relationship has been an open secret that has over the years manifested into an exchange of words between the two top cops regarding how the country's police should be managed.
In a letter to Ramaphosa in June 2021, the SA policing union outlined how the pair's public spats had been “much to the embarrassment of the nation”.
“The spat started soon after the minister was appointed to his current portfolio and his insistence on being addressed as 'General Cele' and his scolding of the national commissioner for issuing an instruction that the minister must be addressed as 'honourable minister',” the letter signed by general secretary Tumelo Mogodiseng read.