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We had no intelligence regarding July riots — Police commissioners


KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole could not sufficiently explain why the police failed during the July riots at a Human Rights Commission hearing which took place this week.

The Sunday Times reports that both Sitole and Mkhwanazi stated that police had no intelligence before the riots began — despite social media posts warning of the potential for violence.

Former national commissioner and current police minister Bheki Cele said the police force has lost its way, and blamed Sitole for this.

“When I was national commissioner, I pulled a team. I pulled everybody together. I minimised every and any conflict. I had a wonderful team,” said Cele.

Bheki Cele South African Minister of Police
Minister of Police Bheki Cele

Sitole agreed with Cele that police had made little effort to plan for the unrest, and could not explain why police didn’t act swiftly once the riots began.

He also said he did not know the number of victims killed in racially motivated attacks in Phoenix during the unrest, but insisted that he “can still do the job.”

Mkhwanazi, in contrast, knew that the number of people who died in Phoenix during the unrest was 36, but argued that more people had died in other areas, such as Inanda, during this financial year.

“We are talking about 36 murders in Phoenix at this time, but in this financial year which started in April, to date, how many people were killed in Phoenix?” asked Mkhwanazi.

“You will be shocked that the number of murders in Phoenix is not coming anywhere close to next door, which is Inanda.”

“Inanda is known for rapes and all these other crimes that you have. The very same communities that are crying about the murders that happened in Phoenix slaughter each other every single day.”

He said that even if the police force is fired because society doesn’t like them, and new officers are appointed, the same results will follow because “the problem is society.”

Mkhwanazi also contested former defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s allegations that he was absent and uncooperative during the riots.

He argued that he had in fact called out Mapisa-Nqakula for lying about soldier deployments within the province, and this has caused her to “become personal.”

KwaZulu-Natal Police Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi
KwaZulu-Natal Police Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi

As of October, the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (Sasria) had paid out R5.8 billion in claims to businesses that suffered damages because of the July unrest.

Additionally, MTN was forced to spend R150 million on replacing stolen and vandalised network infrastructure including batteries and copper cables.

CEO of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), Nischal Mewalall, also reported that R119 million in cash was stolen during the riots, with not all of this money being dye-stained, meaning it could then be used for organised crime and “to promote lawlessness.”

Pepkor — which owns the Pep, Ackermans, HiFi Corp, and Tekkie Towns chains, reported its costs to fix riot damages to be between R1.2 billion and R1.3 billion.

These figures show the tremendous scale of the damages incurred during the unrest.

Additionally, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) got into hot water over not paying security companies for contracts it had awarded during the riots — including R241 million worth of contracts with Red Ant Security.

Of this figure, Red Ant Security had only received R10 million in October, which is why it has taken Prasa to court.

“They gave quotations to Prasa and those quotations were accepted,” said Red Ant Security’s lawyer Jan Allen.

“The security guards were deployed to various sites in terms of those quotations, the work was done and Prasa confirmed that the job was done correctly. If there is presumption of something untoward that is incorrect.”

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