National police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole was given his marching orders because of his political links and concern that he may not implement the recommendations of the Zondo state capture commission, according to a senior source in the Union Buildings.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Friday that he had removed the top cop from his position after a “mutual agreement”. The termination takes effect on March 31.
“We removed Khehla because firstly, he will not implement the recommendations of the Zondo commission because his name is mentioned. Secondly, he is too loyal to DD (David Mabuza), Ace [Magashule], and [Fikile] Mbalula,” the source said.
“They worked closely with Mbalula towards the 2017 ANC conference. His relationship with DD dates back to the days he was working in Mpumalanga before he moved to the Free State. He is very close to Ace because he was based in the Free State.”
The source said the presidency was going to give police minister Bheki Cele “space to appoint someone he trusts”.
“He has mentioned a couple of names. After he has appointed his person we will then assess his performance. When he has someone he trusts he will have no excuse why certain things are not done.”
Ramaphosa has justified his taking so long to pull the trigger on Sitole, saying “processes needed to be followed”.
“We go through a number of processes in government … and the national police commissioner and myself agreed that it is in the interest of the country and the police service that he should terminate his services a little earlier than he had anticipated,” Ramaphosa said yesterday.
Speaking on the sidelines of a two-day NEC engagement with the Eastern Cape province to evaluate the 2021 local government elections, Ramaphosa confirmed that the search was on for a new police commissioner.
“We are now going to engage in the process to appoint someone else as head of the police.” An announcement on the filling of the position would be made in due course, he said.
The move to fire Sitole comes after mounting pressure after the July unrest and tensions between himself and police minister Bheki Cele.
Who will tell us why the police failed during the July unrest and who will come clear on who was interfering and why?
Tumelo Mogodiseng, SA Police Union general secretary
SA Police Union (Sapu) general secretary Tumelo Mogodiseng said while the union welcomed Sitole’s removal as “long overdue”, it felt his departure agreement was a political cover-up that would see him escape accountability for his poor performance and receive a settlement at public expense.
“Why have they struck a mutual agreement when it is clear that he failed in his duties? Why is he not held accountable like any other employee? Now who is going to answer to the mess within the SAPS? Who will tell us why the police failed during the July unrest and who will come clear on who was interfering and why?” Mogodiseng said.
“And we want to know what this mutual agreement is all about. Does he get to keep his pension, was he bought out of his contract and at whose expense and why?”
Mogodiseng said Sapu wanted a competent, qualified and well-trained career cop appointed to take over the service.
“We want the president to follow the prescribed procedures and identify at least three good candidates. And those men and women should be interviewed publicly like judges so they can take us into their confidence and tell us their concerns and how they want to take the SAPS forward,” he said.
Police & Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said: “Unfortunately we are not commenting until Monday. There are processes now being undertaken and only then will we issue a statement.”