National Police Commissioner, General Khehla John Sitole and police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA
National Police Commissioner, General Khehla John Sitole and police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

Police Minister Bheki Cele downplays differences with national commissioner

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jul 29, 2021

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POLICE Minister Bheki Cele has downplayed the differences between himself and national commissioner Khehla Sitole, saying they worked together and did not engage in infighting.

Cele said there was no basis for suggestions by MPs that if things were not in order at the top level, that things would not work in the SAPS.

Speaking in the police portfolio committee on Thursday, Cele stated that he and Sitole were not friends and did not drink coffee together.

“Let me assure you that we work together. Even if you want to see our phones, we phone one another almost daily asking questions and raising matters,” he said.

Cele, however, said there were things they would not agree on.

“It is not animosity. We are not fighting, but I can assure you we work together,” he said.

“There are things we may not agree on as accounting officer and executive authority. To say we are chaotic and don’t work together, I would really not agree with that,” Cele said.

During the meeting, it became evident that Cele and Sitole were on the same level on departmental issues.

Responding to MPs about filling the position of the crime intelligence head, Sitole said acting head of crime intelligence Lieutenant-General Yolisa Mokgabudi, formerly Matakata, had been tipped to be the next head of the division that has had 10 acting divisional heads over the past decade.

He said the process of restructuring the crime intelligence division had been done. Sitole also said the restructuring committee has recommended Mokgabudi to head the division, and that he has ratified the recommendation.

“The matter will soon be finalised and immediately escalated to the minister,” Sitole said.

But Cele said he had heard about Mokgabudi’s pending appointment for the first time in the meeting with MPs.

Cele pointed out that there may be problems in her appointment as there was a court case involving dismissed crime intelligence head Peter Jacobs.

“Until that is resolved and the court tells us what to do, it could be a problem. The court may come back and say you erred, go fix it,” he said.

“I am jittery when we finalise appointments when the court case is not finalised,” Cele said. The minister was hopeful that he and Sitole would find each other on the matter.

“There are a lot of exchanges between the national commissioner and the minister on the crime intelligence thing, and we hope we will finalise it on Monday.”

However, Sitole stated that the post had been vacant because of the restructuring processes.

He said that Jacobs, who was challenging his removal from the post, had been placed in one of the inspectorates before his dismissal.

“We are going to resolve this matter as the minister indicated. On Monday, we will explain everything and we should not restart restructuring because people are threatening court action,” Sitole said.

During the same meeting Cele said he was unaware of the appeals Sitole and two deputies, Francinah Vuma and Lebeoana Tsumani, had made in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) over a grabber procurement.

This was after Sitole told MPs that he would not resign from his position after they lost the appeal. The trio were implicated in hindering an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate when it probed the grabber procurement.

Sitole said he and his deputies were cleared by the inspector-general (IG) of intelligence on the matter.

“The judgment is based on the classification and declassification of documents. The evidence by the IG was not taken into account,” he said.

Sitole also said that no spy grabber had been bought and no procurement took place.

“The matter is still on review. The question whether we resign or not: it would be premature to do that,” he said.

Cele distanced himself from the spy grabber matter, saying he knew nothing about it.

“I know nothing about this. I don’t know about the case,” he said.

Cele also said he did not know that it had been decided to appeal against the highcourt judgment at the SCA.

“I only knew yesterday (Wednesday) by chance that the decision was taken on the 30th. The less I talk about it, the better,” the minister added.

Cele said the only problem he had was that the decision to appeal against the court decision had financial implications.

“It is not clear whose cost it is … I have signed nothing,” he said before revealing the current litigation cost on the grabber was estimated at R1.8 million.

ANC MP Kebby Maphatsoe said they needed a report on the grabber.

“Lets have a proper report that will be presented to us about the grabber. In the next portfolio committee meeting let this report be presented, “ Maphatsoe said.

He also said it was curious that Cele said he did not not know anything about the court case.

“That means there are tensions. The minister can’t wait for us to raise things here. We need a proper report on the issue of the grabber so that we can engage on this thing,’ Maphatsoe said.

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