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Bheki Cele tells SAHRC: Police had enough money to aid July unrest

South African Minister of police Bheki Cele. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/ African News Agency (ANA)

South African Minister of police Bheki Cele. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 4, 2021


Durban – Police Minister Bheki Cele says the Crime Intelligence (CI) unit had “enough money” to strengthen its capabilities during the civil unrest, despite the National Commissioner General Khehla Sitole and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala pleading police poverty.

Cele said that the culprits behind the unrest may have started planning long before, referring to the dismantling of the CI unit after six top officials, including head of the unit Peter Jacobs, were served with suspension notices last year.

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Cele was testifying before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Friday during its hearing into the civil unrest in July following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, resulting in the deaths of more than 350 people.

The minister said that newly appointed acting head of crime intelligence, Feroz Khan, “was signing things he was not supposed to be signing without authority”. Further reports indicate that Khan was never formally appointed as acting.

Despite Khan being fairly new in his role as acting head of the unit, Cele said he had signed a long list of finances from a secret fund which is “very difficult to account for”. The fund, according to the minister, is worth around half a billion Rand.

Cele also said he was not advised with regards to the decision to suspend the former top officials at crime intelligence, and the move was granted permission by a court after he challenged it.

“I hear that Khan, General Khan, is acting as the head of intelligence. I don't know, I did not sign that. Now I try to find out from the commissioner (Sithole), he explains to say no, it was not acting, it was a part of acting.

“What is a part of acting? Sign some things and not some things. And the guy (Khan) has signed a long list of things. This is half a billion we are talking about. It is called a secret fund. It is very difficult to be accounted for.

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“Anybody who says the work did not happen because there was no money, no, there was money. There was money to such an extent that the Treasury is granting the request of about R138 million in roll over. It was granted in May for the money to be used. These things happen in July. So it is not an excuse to say there was no money, there was money granted by the Treasury.

“It cannot be that anything that wasn't done was because of money, because there was money,” the minister said.

The organisers of the July unrest resorted to “technology”, and police crime intelligence was not yet up to date with technological advancements because of budget constraints, Sitole told the commission earlier this week.

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Sitole said the lack of resources was the reason that crime intelligence was unable to prepare a “concrete plan” to combat the orchestrated attack.

With KZN and parts of Gauteng burning to the ground, Sitole said that he was in a command office in Pretoria during the upheaval and did not feel the need to be on the ground with Cele, who mentioned several times in a statement that Sitole failed to provide him with information.

Zikalala told the commission that some of the major factors behind the July unrest were an under-resourced police unit, undignified socio-economic conditions and a history of violence in the province.

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Zikalala said that legislation at a national level is not allowing the provincial government to do enough in terms of bulking up its police structures and units.

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Political Bureau