#UnrestSA: Instigators of unrest knew police were scattered, unprepared, Sitole says

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A member of the South African Police Services arrests a looter inside the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg.
A member of the South African Police Services arrests a looter inside the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg.
Phill Magakoe / AFP
  • Police commissioner General Khehla Sitole said police were caught off-guard by the unrest. 
  • Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Police was told that of the 12 suspected instigators, three have been prioritised by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation and the Detective Service Division.
  • Hawks Head, General Godfrey Lebeya said they were working closely with the National Prosecuting Authority to finalise the investigations involving the 12 suspects.

South African Police Services national commissioner General Khehla Sitole has admitted the police were counter-attacked by the instigators planning the unrest, resulting in the delayed response time from the police to attempt to restore order. 

Sithole was responding to questions by members of Parliament on Friday, during a portfolio committee session on police.

His remarks followed the announcement that police had arrested another suspect - not part of the 12 alleged instigators in the unrest - for perpetuating violence. 

The suspect was arrested on the West Rand, Gauteng, on Friday morning for inciting violence through social media, Parliament heard on Friday.

READ | One suspected 'instigator' of unrest arrested

The man was heard in a voice note instigating violence in the West Rand.

"At the beginning when everything started, all our force levels were in the various areas of deployment, in terms of Covid-19. Because of the enforcement that is a requirement. That also includes roadblocks and other operational activities.

"So, whoever then started modus operandi [sic] was aware that the force levels are actually scattered. And they realised very well that at the time the activities started, then they were going to beat us with a reaction time. Secondly, they also capitalised on environmental design factors," Sitole said.

READ | Ex-MK operatives may be at heart of 'insurrection' - State Security Deputy Minister Kodwa

Sitole said only then, did SAPS conduct an analysis on the modus operandi of the unrest, before responding and intercepting the planned and coordinated unrest.

The police commissioner added that they intended to release a post-mortem report after the situation had stabilised. 

"It's actually going to point out the resources implication on the security forces. And it will also be coming from the JCPS (Justice Crime Prevention and Security) cluster. There is a need to consider resourcing our responses because. Our responses to a greater end have been handicapped by the sourcing," he said.

Meanwhile, the Hawks head, General Godfrey Lebeya said as part of their investigations on the unrest, they were looking into the acts and the conduct of individuals alleged to be instigators of the violence.


Lebeya said once they had completed looking into all actions by the individuals behind the instigation, the national director of public prosecutors would then look into the matter and later decide what type of crime the individual needed to be charged with.

"For example, the focus now is incitement. Then you've got damaged property, then you've got intimidation. Some of these are based on the Riotous Assemblies Act. When that is done... at a later stage, there will be a consideration as to whether the individual can be charged... that decision is taken with the national office of the NPA and considering the facts," he said.

READ | Zizi Kodwa says 'experienced' people behind looting as residents stand to protect Soweto mall

Lebeya added that they were working closely with the NPA to finalise the investigations involving the 12 suspects, however, they couldn't give a timeline as to when the suspects would be arrested.

Parliament was told that of the 12 suspects, three have been prioritised by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) and the Division of Detective Service, while the remaining nine individuals are being profiled to link them to current cases. Lebeya added that the individuals involved carried out their activities in a well-coordinated way and not in the open.

He said:

We want this to be done as speedily as possible. We can all see the urgency of this, so the matters that are currently being discussed, we shall be getting directive as to what else needs to be done. The other matters we are working hard on them.

According to the police top brass, the Chief Magistrate in Durban is on stand-by to issue warrants of arrest for instigators.

But some Members of Parliament slammed the Security Cluster for not anticipating the unrest before it happened. Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus, making his submissions before the Portfolio Committee on Police on Friday, said there was a lack of accountability and that the intelligence structures failed the people of South Africa. 

Groenewald said: "Part of our problem in South Africa, and I've said it to the President is a virus of impunity. People just get away. How police members are caught on video looting with the looters is unacceptable and it's proof that there's a serious problem in the police services."

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