Police minister Bheki Cele has reiterated that while it had been clear that violence and rioting would break out in KwaZulu-Natal ahead of last year’s July unrest, no intelligence was given to him by intelligence structures, including the SA Police Service’s crime intelligence division.
Cele was on Monday testifying before the SA Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) investigative hearings into the violence and looting that gripped KZN and Gauteng after the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma last year.
The hearings are entering their second leg focusing on Gauteng after the first leg focused on KZN late last year.
Cele said the SAPS had deployed police officers from various provinces to KZN to monitor the marches that were staged outside Zuma’s Nkandla home and the blockading of roads that followed, despite criticism that there was failure in preparation of the unrest.
“Preparation would have been better. For the fact that I made a personal request to the head of policing to keep those police that were down there, it was an indication that something was suspected to come,” he said.
Cele said he did not receive an intelligence report from police national commissioner Khehla Sitole, the SA Defence Force and the State Security Agency (SSA) regarding the riots before they took place.
“There is no intelligence that was received by me from those structures. But I would have received something that I would think is information or intelligence, for instance the correspondence from social media,” he said.
He said he had tried to verify the information containing names of people who were linked to the planned unrest by asking intelligence structures to authenticate the pseudo names that were used on social media platforms.
“I raised that at the level of the SSA if it [information] could be deciphered so that we get the actual names and activities and who those people were. Unfortunately that did not happen,” he said.
The second leg of the hearings will this week be hearing testimony from the police service, the army, community representatives from Soweto and Alexandra, taxi associations and trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel.
Cele said while the crime intelligence division was facing leadership challenges since the suspension of the divisional head Peter Jacobs, there was no excuse for the division not to brief him on the unrest.
“I am sure some deliberate decision was just taken not to brief [me] in terms of the crime intelligence,” Cele said.
Evidence leader and SAHRC KZN manager Lloyd Lotz asked Cele to explain who were the individuals he said had helped him “on the ground” in his efforts to contain the unrest, which he mentioned in his affidavit before the hearings.
Cele said: “I have a phone number that is on the internet, so anybody has my number. It irritates but helps because you get information that you would not get if your number was not known. I know some of the people and I don’t know some of them.”