Cele claims Malema and Sitole tried to hatch a plot to remove him

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Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole.
Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole.
PHOTO: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images
  • Police Minister Bheki Cele says EFF leader Julius Malema tried to hatch a plot with national police commissioner Khehla Sitole to remove him.
  • Several MPs, including Malema, called for Cele's removal in the debate on last week's SONA.
  • Malema dared Cele to repeat his accusation outside Parliament and Cele said he would.

Under-pressure Police Minister Bheki Cele says EFF leader Julius Malema tried to hatch a plot with national police commissioner Khehla Sitole to have him removed from his position.

Cele dropped this bombshell at the start of his contribution to the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday. It was not part of his prepared speech.

Several opposition speakers said it was untenable that Cele continued in Cabinet given the findings of the report into the July unrest against him - Malema among them.

Cele said Malema met with Sitole on 10 December 2020 in Pretoria, where "the plot was hashed that I [Cele] must be changed".

"It is not a surprise he [Malema] comes here and changes a Cabinet he does not have. The Honourable Malema will have to wait, win an election, have a Cabinet and appoint the Cabinet," he added.

READ | Sitole going, Cele moving?

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu objected, saying Cele "cast aspersions on the Honourable Malema, the commander-in-chief".

"He must, of course, be removed because he is useless," added Shivambu to which ANC MP Bheki Radebe objected, saying it was "offence language" to call a minister "useless".

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said Shivambu had raised a point of order and then broke the rules himself.

Malema then added Cele must repeat his statement outside Parliament, where he is not protected by parliamentary privilege.

"I will repeat it on Friday at 12 when I give the crime stats," an unperturbed Cele retorted.

READ | Stand-off between Cele, Sitole could lead to constitutional changes in appointment of top cop

Last year, Ramaphosa appointed a panel of experts to probe the reasons behind the July 2021 unrest. Last week, the Presidency released the panel's report.

"The police failed to stop the rioting and looting in July 2021. The reasons for this failure are complex and sometimes not of their making. In some instances, they did not get any intelligence upon which to plan operations," read the report.

The report was scathing of Ramaphosa's executive, stating the lines between the executive authorities and security services seemed blurred.

"Dysfunctional relationships between ministers and their senior leadership teams in the departments in some cases impeded synergy in the flow of intelligence which affected decision-making," noted the report.

malema
EFF leader Julius Malema
Gallo Images Sharon Seretlo

Cele said in his speech the July unrest could have been worse and the security cluster was functional.

"Chairperson, allow me to reiterate and reaffirm our strong position as the security cluster, without fear of contradiction that there is no threat to the stability of this country. I repeat, there is no threat to the stability of this country!"

He admitted some components of the security services might be limping but insisted they were not down and out.

"Could they [the unrest] have been prevented? Maybe? Could they have been worse? Certainly! Could those tasked with safeguarding this country, done better? Of course yes!"

Cele said there was a "systematic and deliberate erosion of the country's security apparatus over the years" and it would take some time to clean up.

READ | Pressure mounts on Ramaphosa to sack Cele

As he concluded, he was heckled by EFF MPs but said he had to tell the truth to the people.

"It is important that they know what you did on December 10," Cele said, apparently to Malema.

After he concluded, EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi spoke out of order.

"You have messed up the police! That's a fact!" he said to Cele.

The relationship between Cele and Sitole has long been strained and Sitole is hanging on to his position by a thread.  


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