Nkandla gathering: Cops exercised restraint to prevent lives from being lost - Bheki Cele

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  • Police Minister Bheki Cele said blood could easily have been spilled in Nkandla over the weekend.
  • He said 100 people who gathered there in support of former president Jacob Zuma were armed. 
  • Police did not arrest anyone to avoid bloodshed, he said.

To avoid bloodshed, police refrained from arresting any of the people who illegally gathered outside former president Jacob Zuma's homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, Police Minister Bheki Cele said.

He said about 100 people, out of the scores of supporters were armed.

"There were more than 100 [people] coming from some hostels and coming from some areas [of] KZN, armed. Now, police knew that and had that information. To show that, they (the people) even tried to provoke the police by having those firearms used there and shooting in the air."

He added that although they had been provoked and insulted, the officers on the ground "absorbed" the criticism instead of retaliating.

Cele said police were expected to enforce in terms of the Constitution, but added that they also had to protect inhabitants.

"You didn't have information that there were 100 people that had guns there who wanted to shoot at the police...Once the police [are] shot at, they must reply. And bullets have no eyes to say this is a child and a woman…" Cele said.

He was speaking in Orlando, Soweto on Monday during the launch of the vaccination drive for the policing sector.

READ | Shots fired, journalists threatened outside Zuma's home in Nkandla

The minister explained that police had learnt from past experiences, including the infamous Marikana Massacre which claimed the lives of scores of mineworkers and police officers. The minister said suggestions from the Farlam Commission, which was established after the massacre, were used during the operation in Nkandla.

He said 20 police cameras recorded the scenes and added that the data would be used during their investigations.

National commissioner Khehla Sitole sent extra detectives to the province to work with the team during investigation.

He added: 

Police there did not retreat because they were scared. We had a big contingent of police, about 200 police, including the special forces. We had to really take lessons - we have a referral point in South Africa. We have Marikana, and we don't want to go back there.

READ | 'Supporter of Zuma slapped, strangled me' - SABC journalist as Nkandla crowd targets media

Cele said he was happy that investigations around the illegal gathering were happening without any bloodshed and said that this "could have easily happened [had] police acted recklessly".

No arrests have been made but police investigations are continuing, the minister said.

He urged people to continue obeying the law and keep in line with regulations.

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