Sitole nowhere to be seen during July riots, Cele tells SAHRC in statement

In his statement to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Police Minister Bheki Cele said that he worked with the national deputy commissioner instead.

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole gives his testimony via videolink at the SAHRC hearing on 30 November 2021 into the July riots. Picture: @SAHRCommission/Twitter

DURBAN - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) inquiry into the July unrest has heard details about how National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole was nowhere to be found during the unrest.

This was revealed on Tuesday by Police Minister Bheki Cele’s statement, which was submitted to the commission.

Sitole appeared virtually to give his testimony to the commission in Umhlanga, north of Durban.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, the inquiry learnt that Sitole did not visit the affected areas, including KwaZulu-Natal.

In his statement to the commission, Minister Cele said he worked with the national deputy commissioner instead.

Evidence leader Advocate Keke Matshabi read Cele’s statement.

"The national police commissioner was nowhere to be seen and the minister had to work with the deputy commissioner in an effort to contain the unrest," Matshabi read.

Sitole also appeared to be uninformed about the looting in July, including the Phoenix violence which claimed 36 lives.

"Do you know how many were killed in Phoenix?" the evidence leader asked.

"Yes, I received the report," Sitole replied.

"Do you how many people were killed in Phoenix? the evidence leader repeated.

"At the moment, I would not give you the full report," Sitole replied.

But Sitole told the commission that he was not missing in action and that if someone was looking for him they should have reached out to him.

The SAHRC also heard that public order police in KwaZulu-Natal were otherwise occupied when the violence started.

This was revealed by provincial Police Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi on Tuesday.

He said that the unit was already attending to other situations when the crime wave began.