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Resign now or face office fitness probe, Mathale tells Sithole

Deputy police minister Cassel Mathale allegedly told police commissioner Khehla Sitole to resign in order to avoid an intrusive inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

Mathale’s attempt to persuade his chief to give up his post was apparently made in December during the duo’s meeting at police headquarters in Pretoria.Cassel MathaleDeputy police minister Cassel Mathale. Photo: Jan Gerber/News24

Three sources within the security cluster said Sitole did not take kindly to Mathale’s attempts to have him resign, as he had hoped President Cyril Ramaphosa was still considering his representations, in which he blamed Police Minister Bheki Cele for having deprived the police service of resources.

“He [Sitole] told Mathale that he’d been appointed by the president and wouldn’t resign simply because he [Mathale] or Cele wanted him to do so. He said he would consult with the presidency, but Mathale said he didn’t want the president to know about their meeting and the details,” one security cluster source revealed.

This week, Mathale neither confirmed nor denied his alleged attempt to have Sitole resign from the top job in the police service.

“I do meet with the national commissioner from time to time and we engage on issues affecting the SA Police Service [SAPS]. His appointment is the domain of the president, who has the sole authority to decide what does or doesn’t happen to the commissioner. I have no role in this regard,” said Mathale.

Mathale’s involvement in the fracas between Cele and Sitole began after Sitole remarked that he had met with EFF leader Julius Malema at the insistence of Mathale in 2020.Police minister Bheki Cele. Photo: Melinda StuurmaPolice minister Bheki Cele. Photo: Melinda Stuurman

On Monday, Cele told MPs during the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address that Sitole and Malema were plotting to have him removed.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu objected, saying Cele had “cast aspersions on the honourable Malema, our commander in chief”.

On Tuesday, Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli ordered Cele to withdraw his allegation and he complied.

Sitole did not take kindly to Cele’s remarks, saying it was Cele’s deputy who had arranged his meeting with the red berets’ leader.

“The national commissioner of the SAPS, General Khehla John Sitole, has learnt with shock and dismay of the allegation made by the minister of police that he [Sitole] plotted with EFF leader Julius Malema against the police minister. The national commissioner confirms that he met with Julius Malema at a meeting which was initiated by the ministry of police. The meeting was held specifically at the behest of the deputy minister of police, Cassel Charlie Mathale,” stated Sitole’s spokesperson Vish Naidoo.

Naidoo said:The national commissioner was under the impression that the minister was aware of the content of that meeting, given that it was facilitated by his deputy.

According to Naidoo, Mathale asked Sitole to meet Malema in order to address potential threats against him [Malema].

“Malema met with the national commissioner and the head of protection and security services, Lieutenant General Sam Shitlabane, in 2020 at the Tshwane Training Academy. The meeting was solely about the alleged threats against Malema and nothing else, after which feedback was provided to the deputy minister. The national commissioner was under the impression that the minister was aware of the content of that meeting, given that it was facilitated by his deputy,” added Naidoo.

Naidoo said Sitole was “amazed by the fact that his name and image are being tarnished for political reasons. He decided to issue this statement of clarity since his name is being mentioned in Parliament and it’s important for such an institution to know and understand the facts.”

Last week, City Press revealed that Sitole’s days as head of the police service might be numbered, as he could face an inquiry into his fitness to hold office if he does not resign, according to sources.

A source said:Ramaphosa wants both of them out. He’s weighing up David Mahlobo or Fikile Mbalula again. That’s what I hear. Mahlobo apparently made an impression on the president.

It was not only Sitole who was in the firing line, said the sources – his political head, Bheki Cele, could also find himself being removed from his post because of the unrest in July, which found the police ill-prepared to deal with the riots in both Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“[Ramaphosa] wants both of them out. He’s weighing up David Mahlobo or Fikile Mbalula again. That’s what I hear. Mahlobo apparently made an impression on the president. Gauteng provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela is also being considered,” a highly placed security cluster source revealed.

During his state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said that there would be “leadership changes” within the security agencies. The president has already asked Sitole to provide reasons he should not face an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

This follows Cele’s request to the president to launch such an inquiry, following a damning ruling by the Pretoria High Court that Sitole and deputy commissioners Ntombenhle Vuma and Lebeona Tsumane had “breached their duties” by not handing over or declassifying documents for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption.

At the time, Sitole had asked Ramaphosa to delay launching the inquiry into his fitness to hold office while he challenged the court ruling against him.

Sitole – who has since also approached the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn that court ruling – wanted to make a presentation to Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence. He wanted to explain his role in the botched plan to spend more than R4 million on the acquisition of “grabber” communication surveillance devices ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December 2017.

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