Cele: I was not convinced Phoenix violence could be linked to racial tension

Police Minister Bheki Cele is testifying at the South African Human Rights Commission hearings looking into the July unrest as the last witness for the KwaZulu-Natal proceedings.

Police Minister Bheki Cele at a media briefing on 25 October 2021. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday told the inquiry investigating the July unrest that he was not convinced the Phoenix violence, which broke out during the unrest, could be linked with racial tension, saying it was crime.

Cele is testifying at the South African Human Rights Commission hearings looking into the July unrest as the last witness for the KwaZulu-Natal proceedings.

He told the commissioners about his first trip to Phoenix and what he made out of the incidents at the time.

“The issue of racism was already there but I was not convinced that this was just pure racism. Hence I said in my first statement that this was criminality that has taken the posture of racism.”

Cele's testimony comes after National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole who also took the witness seat on Tuesday.

WATCH: I don't remember seeing Sitole anywhere during July riots - Cele

‘I DON’T REMEMBER SEEING THE COMMISSIONER’

Cele has taken aim at his national commissioner, saying he was absent from areas affected by July’s violent looting.

Cele has told the hearing that in the absence of the ranking officer of SAPS, he simply worked with deputy commissioners.

The police minister was characteristically blunt in his assessment of the national police commissioner.

He told the inquiry he and the deputy national commissioner were in the thick of things visiting the worst affected areas, but Sitole was nowhere to be seen.

“I don’t remember seeing the commissioner at any of the places affected by the unrest.”

Sitole testified at the hearings earlier this week, saying he spent the days of violence in his operational control room in Pretoria directing resources from there.

But Cele maintains he needed to be on the ground as well.