South Africa


Minister of Police Bheki Cele tells Parliament he was unaware of Sitole ‘grabber’ court case finding

Illustrative image | Sources: National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier) | South African Police Minister Bheki Cele (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma) | Leila Dougan | Adobe Stock

Minister of Police Bheki Cele has told Parliament’s police committee he knew ‘nothing’ about a high court ruling that his national commissioner had been in breach of his duties while Khehla Sitole, in turn, said any talk of his resignation was ‘premature’.

The two most senior leaders in the country’s law enforcement cluster, who have been at each other’s throats for some time, appeared virtually before the committee on Thursday, 29 July in the aftermath of a massive intelligence failure after the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma on 7 July led to violence and looting.

More than 300 deaths were recorded during nine days of volatile unrest across the country which saw shops, malls, cars, trucks and warehouses vandalised, looted and set alight as supporters of the former president went on a rampage in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

On Wednesday, 28 July Daily Maverick reported that the Supreme Court of Appeal had, on 30 June, dismissed an application by Sitole and two of his deputies to appeal against a scathing judgment handed down by the Gauteng High Court in January.

Appeal court confirms Khehla Sitole’s ‘breach of duty’ – his job as head of SAPS now untenable

Back then, Judge Norman Davis found that Sitole and his two deputies, Francinah Vuma and Lebeoana Tsumani, had placed the interests of the governing party, the ANC, ahead of those of the country and had thus been in breach of their duties.

“I know nothing about this thing. Nothing about the original case or when it was decided. I know nothing about when it was appealed the first time, the second time. I know nothing about the results. I only knew yesterday by chance that a decision was made on the 30th,” Cele told chair Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Cele, while he might claim to know nothing about the merits of the original case, did, however, reveal on Wednesday that the matter would set the SAPS back about R1.8-million in legal fees.

Sitole, on the other hand, in reply to a question, told the committee that he had no plans to resign.

He also intimated that the high court had made an “incorrect” finding on the attempted illegal procurement of a R45-million grabber before the ruling party’s elective conference in December 2017 and which was caught on CCTV.

“I want to indicate that myself and two deputy commissioners were cleared by the Inspector-General on this matter. The matter is based on the declassification of documents. Evidence by the IG was not taken into account. There was no grabber, there was no procurement,” said the national police commissioner.

The matter, he added, was “under review”, without disclosing by whom or which body.

What is puzzling is that Sitole and his management team had not once referred to this apparent “exoneration” by the Inspector-General in any of their affidavits in response to the court case brought by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Sitole was also disingenuous in claiming “no procurement happened” as it was only after Ipid had discovered the illegal deal by Crime Intelligence and had tipped off the national commissioner that he canned it.

Pettersson told both leaders that “it is clear you have instability” and that SAPS management had been slow to implement court decisions.

“Why are we having all these court cases? Why are we not implementing it?” she said, adding that “your presentations are always late” and that this undermined the oversight role of the committee.

Sitole also said that his appointment of Lieutenant-General Yolisa Mokgabudi as acting head of the Crime Intelligence was still being ratified. 

Daily Maverick reported on 25 July that Mokgabudi had been absent from her post between 31 May and 21 June, crucial months in the lead-up to the unrest.

South Africa’s Insecurity Cluster: Anatomy of a cock-up foretold

Cele has challenged Sitole’s appointment of Mokgabudi while matters involving the former suspended head, Peter Jacobs, were making their way through the courts.

“I have a meeting with the commissioner on Monday,” he said, adding that “until the courts tell us what to do” no permanent appointment should be made.

“What if the court finds that you have erred and that you must fix it and take him back and all that. I am on the jittery side to finalise when court processes are not finalised.”

Both men, however, were insistent that “we are not fighting, we work together” and that there was no “chaos”. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 19

  • One monumental cock-up is SAPS from top to bottom and while they play with the courts our democracy remains unprotected. Hello, Cyril. Where is the president?

  • How on Earth is it possible that Cele can even claim he knew nothing of his top peanut’s court case and its dooming finding? Can the man not read? This fact alone is more than sufficient reason for CR to get rid of him and Sithole. But alas, CR also has a problem to read and see. The writing is on the wall for his beloved corrupt and criminal Mafia ANC, but no-one is as blind as the one who refuses to see.
    So what is parliament doing with this knowledge? The same as the executive- nothing. What is the point of having court cases and findings if there is no will to act on it? There cannot be any argument against the notion that SA is a failed state.

  • WTF does Cele actually know? The only drivel that flows from his mouth is “I don’t know” and denials of receiving any intelligence reports. How does an inept, wholly unqualified and incompetent reprobate become Minister? Its beyond embarrassing and enraging at the same time. South Africa is a complete circus run by clowns.

    • Come on, Cele is not the sharpest tool in the cabinet & you can hardly blame him for that. He was deployed & as a disciplined cadre he had no choice but accept the party’s deployment instruction.

  • When I was watching the Trump circus a few months ago the words,”I know nothing about it,” was used more often than not by the head clown when his back was against the wall. Clowns often do imitate each other.

    Cele and “Trompie” are children from the same lying “mother”.

    With the bad blood between the two I am sure Cele is watching his right hand man Sitole (with a shining guillotine hanging over his head), with hawk eyes.

  • Cele had a duty to know what was happening under his watch, but like many other examples of negligence nothing will change.

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted