July unrest report: Plotters dribbled the intelligence service

Security at the Chris Hani Mall in Vosloorus forced looters to swim in the water on the ground, which was released by the sprinklers in the midst of the looting. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Security at the Chris Hani Mall in Vosloorus forced looters to swim in the water on the ground, which was released by the sprinklers in the midst of the looting. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Feb 8, 2022


Johannesburg - The plotters of the July unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal outwitted the country's intelligence services which could not cope and deal with the violent protests.

This is contained in a damning Experts Panel Report published by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.

The probe by Professor Sandy Africa, Silumko Sokupa and advocate Monjanku Gumbi delivered their report to the National Security Council chaired by Ramaphosa on Friday.

The experts gave a detailed account of how the aftermath of the ANC national conference of 2017, which saw the election of Ramaphosa as the party’s president, led to factional battles in state institutions, including state intelligence which was graphically divided between supporters of former president Jacob Zuma and the incumbent.

The expert panel report found that the State Security Agency (SSA) had warned the government about the impending violence following the conviction of Zuma in the Constitutional Court on June 29 for contempt of the Zondo Commission.

The unrest left 354 people dead and more than R50 billion was lost in damages.

In the report, there is a commonality that the incarceration of Zuma precipitated the violent attacks which started in KZN and spread to Gauteng on July 9.

However, the report found that differences between Minister of Police Bheki Cele and National Commissioner Kehla Sitole allowed the looters enough time to execute their violent acts.

“Within the SAPS chain of command, there appears to have been no direct line of submitting intelligence reports to the Minister of Police. The Minister said he had not received any intelligence report/briefing from either the National Commissioner of the SAPS or the Divisional Commissioner: Crime Intelligence, from at least December 2020.

“However, according to the National Commissioner, following the Constitutional Court ruling that Mr Zuma should be sent to prison, all Crime Intelligence (CI) provincial structures were tasked by the Head Office to determine whether any threats could be identified. CI was requested to ensure that existing source-networks were focused on gathering information to identify any threats associated with mobilisation in support of former president Zuma.” the report stated.

However, the report stated that the CI divisions in all provinces found corroborative evidence, but nothing was done to stop the violent protests ahead of time.

“Be that as it may, the Minister expected the National Commissioner to provide him with an initial threat and risk assessment or early warning report ahead of the unrest, and thereafter, through feedback, updates, and briefings, with the aim of providing insight and understanding so that the Minister could make a contribution to broad strategies, policies and resources. This, however, did not happen.

“The Minister of Police was not the only executive member who expressed unhappiness about not receiving timely intelligence,” the report stated.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura and KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala also made similar complaints to the panel.

The panel also found that the relationship between Cele and Sitole was further worsened by the alleged involvement of the National Commissioner in the acquisition of grabbers (spy devices) which were allegedly used to spy at the ANC’s Nasrec Conference in 2017.

Safety Security expert Dr Jakkie Cilliers corroborated the panel’s report that the ANC factional fights had hampered the operations of state intelligence. Cilliers also expressed concern about Cele’s delays in acting against Sitole.

“This was worsened by bad management and appointment of cadres in key intelligence posts in the intelligence. President Cyril Ramaphosa must implement the recommendations of the High-level Review Panel on Intelligence which was led by Sydney Mufamadi,” Cilliers said.

A similar finding was made by the panel saying: “It must be said equally, that the security services, and this is by their own admission, were unable to predict the form that the potential violence would take. They were, in short, outwitted by the planners, and were just unable to keep up.”

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Political Bureau