July unrest: Police were overstretched, admits Khehla Sitole

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SAPS commissioner General Khehla Sitole has called for more police officers following the July unrest.
SAPS commissioner General Khehla Sitole has called for more police officers following the July unrest.
Melinda Stuurman
  • Khehla Sitole says the July unrest overstretched the police. 
  • Sitole was giving testimony virtually at the SAHRC's hearings into the deadly unrest. 
  • He says the modus operandi during the unrest was the first of its kind for the SAPS.

On Monday, national SAPS commissioner General Khehla Sitole conceded that police were overstretched and didn't have enough capacity to deal with the July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.  

Giving testimony at the South African Human Rights Commission's national hearings into the July unrest, Sitole said:

We did not have enough capacity to respond. The other main cause was the nature of the modus operandi used. SAPS was so overstretched in such a manner that the current establishment could not be everywhere at all times.

Sitole who is currently in Turkey for an Interpol conference, testified virtually on Monday.

READ | Week 1 of SAHRC investigation into July unrest: What's been said so far?

He added that, if the police had more members, they would have responded to the unrest in a better way.  

"The modus operandi applied here was that of overstretching police resources. They were drawing us into a human capital crisis. At the same time, there was a need for capital resources like Nyalas and water cannons, and there was a need to fly members for air support.

"From the unfolding process… it was a planned gathering with an unpredicted modus operandi. The planners of the July unrest first developed a new modus operandi and they thereafter executed it. It was the first modus operandi of its kind and it was lifted very high."

He said the evidence from their investigations indicated that the unrest was very well planned. 

Sitole said, other than hiring more public order police officers, the SAPS needed to improve its intelligence services.

We need to sharpen our intelligence. We have now captured the modus operandi. They knew that if they overstretch the response, we would not be quick enough.


He said about 1 000 additional police officers had been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal to assist with the unrest. 

The unrest, which happened mostly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, left more than 340 people dead and dented the economy by R50 billion.  

Sithole is set to continue his testimony on another date. 

The hearing continues. 

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