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Cele says he will not resign after Malema’s call for him to be axed over July unrest

'I am a member of the cabinet and the president is the head of the cabinet. I will follow exactly what the president will say': police minister Bheki Cele

Police minister Bheki Cele says he will not resign for the July unrest, unless President Cyril Ramaphosa tells him to do so. File image.
Police minister Bheki Cele says he will not resign for the July unrest, unless President Cyril Ramaphosa tells him to do so. File image.
Image: Jaco Marais

Police minister Bheki Cele says he will not resign after a damning report by a task team panel which found that cabinet should take responsibility for the violence that rocked the nation in July last year. 

“I am a member of the cabinet and the president is the head of the cabinet. I will follow exactly what the president will say,” said Cele on Thursday night on the sidelines of the state of the nation address at the Cape Town City Hall.

The police minister was responding to a call by EFF leader Julius Malema, who wanted the heads of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his police minister after a report which said the government failed to prevent and manage the civil unrest which saw large scale looting of businesses and the deaths of more than 300 people.

Ramaphosa addressed the report, which was released on Monday, during his address.

The report paints a deeply disturbing picture of the capabilities of our security services and the structures that exist to co-ordinate their work. The report concludes that government’s initial handling of the July 2021 events was inept, police operational planning was poor, there was poor co-ordination between the state security and intelligence services, and police are not always embedded in the communities they serve.

“The expert panel found that cabinet must take overall responsibility for the events of July 2021. This is a responsibility that we acknowledge and accept,” he said.

When asked whether Ramaphosa should resign for the deadly incident that cost the country’s economy billions, Malema said: “Part of taking responsibility means he must resign.”

Malema said the damning report said Ramaphosa’s cabinet must take responsibility for what happened.

“The biggest responsibility you can ever take is to step aside and allow people who can lead to lead. More than 300 lives were lost and those lives could have been saved by a responsible government,” he said.

Malema also called for Cele’s head, saying: “We do not have security in SA. People like Bheki Cele should be ashamed of themselves ... An honourable person would not even wait for the president to fire him. He should be resigning to show remorse and say we have failed the people of SA.”

Malema said Cele will not resign “because they are all driven by personal interest and not a desire to serve people”.

“There is an expert report that says they have failed and there is no security in SA and they were all shocked like all of us and they did not know what was going to happen,” he said.

He added that if there was no drastic intervention to strengthen and depoliticise the security cluster in SA, then citizens could expect similar events.

Defending himself, Cele said the cabinet was taking collective responsibly for the incident.

“Why would you take [the blame out on] one member out of the committee?” he asked.

On the six managerial posts that were vacant within crime intelligence at the time of the unrest and the fact that the police were ill-equipped to deal with the incident, Cele said: “The minister does not employ a single police. Even the national commissioner is employed by the president. But those [six] people were suspended by the national commissioner.”

Cele said there was correspondence between him and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole, “fighting over those suspension [sic], which really did weaken the working of the crime intelligence and all other things, including things like equipment and rubber bullets.”

The minister, said Cele, has nothing to do with operational matters.

“The Police Act and the constitution will tell you who is responsible for that. The minister just oversees that but can’t go beyond that, including the disciplining of the national commissioner.”

When asked about the factional battled between himself and Sitole, which are linked to the ANC, Cele said: “I am not the spokesperson of the ANC. I am here as the minister and not as an NEC member. [I] look at the crime in SA and work with people that deal with the situation we are dealing with.”

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