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Police commissioner lashes out at Cele over claim he plotted with Malema

Gen Khehla Sitole ‘amazed his name and image is being tarnished for political reasons’ as apparent feud deepens

National police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole responded to an allegation that he plotted with EFF leader Julius Malema against police minister Bheki Cele. File image.
National police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole responded to an allegation that he plotted with EFF leader Julius Malema against police minister Bheki Cele. File image.
Image: Phill Magakoe

The apparent feud between Gen Khehla Sitole and Bheki Cele has taken another turn after the national police commissioner lashed out at the police minister for claiming in parliament that he had plotted with EFF leader Julius Malema for his removal.

The latest salvo in the often bitter relationship between the two comes after Cele defended himself amid intense scrutiny in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation (Sona) address last week.

The DA and the EFF were particularly critical of the police minister, saying the security cluster was dysfunctional.

Responding during the Sona debate on Monday, Malema said it was a blunder to appoint Cele as police minister when he had occupied the position of police commissioner. This, he said, created fertile ground for Cele to compete with Sitole for power and control.

Cele hit back at Malema, accusing him of plotting with Sitole for his removal.

According to Cele, Malema had secretly met Sitole to plot the minister’s removal, and said he was willing to repeat this outside parliament.

Sitole, through a statement on Tuesday issued under the name of former police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo, who recently became KwaZulu-Natal head of inspections, said he was “shocked and dismayed” at the claims.

“The national commissioner confirms he met with Mr Julius Malema, a meeting initiated by the ministry of police. The meeting was held specifically at the behest of the deputy minister of police, Cassel Charlie Mathale.”

Naidoo said Sitole had received a request from Mathale to attend a meeting with Malema to discuss threats against the EFF leader.

“Mr Malema met with the national commissioner and head of protection and security services, Lt-Gen Sam Shitlabane, in 2020 at the Tshwane training academy. The meeting was solely about the alleged threats against Mr Malema and nothing else. Feedback was provided to the deputy minister,” Naidoo said.


According to Naidoo, Sitole was under the impression that Cele was aware of the content of the meeting as it was facilitated by his deputy.

“During a television interview with the minister on Sona 2022 on February 11, he indicated the national commissioner was not in attendance at the Sona. This is also not correct. The national commissioner is invited by the president, as it is customary to do for every Sona. The same was done this year and the national commissioner attended the Sona of 2022,” said Naidoo.

He said parliament records would confirm Sitole’s attendance.

“The national commissioner is amazed his name and image is being tarnished for political reasons. He decided to issue this statement of clarity since his name is mentioned in parliament, and it’s important for such an institution to know and understand the facts,” he said.

Previously, Cele claimed that the failure to respond to the July riots and looting lay at Sitole’s door.

Cele claimed in an affidavit he presented to the SA Human Rights Commission in December that Sitole was nowhere to be seen during the unrest and looting.

“As stated, pertaining to the violence mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng for the period leading up to the outbreak and from the time the violence broke out to the time it was brought under control, I did not receive an intelligence report from either the national commissioner or the divisional commissioner: crime intelligence,” read Cele’s affidavit.

He said the police service was exposed as being inadequate during the riots and looting.

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