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Cele says SSA ‘failed’ to verify information about instigators of July riots

Police Minister Bheki Cele has revealed that the cases of two instigators behind the rampant looting and violent unrest witnessed the country in July 2021.

Cele returned to the witness box at the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC‘s) investigative hearings into Monday’s July riots, where he revealed that 19 alleged instigators had been arrested, but two of the cases were dropped.

Amid the turmoil last year in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the government initially suggested 12 instigators were behind the “well-orchestrated economic sabotage” that more than 300 people dead

‘Very well-known names’

The minister explained to the SAHRC that he first received information from a civilian about the 12 instigators.

“I have a phone number that’s on the internet, so everyone has my number. It’s annoying, but it helps because you really do get things that you wouldn’t get if your number wasn’t known.

“I have received” [some information]† Someone came to inform me, especially about the names of the people who proclaimed this on the internet. There were very famous names…I think there would be four [people] those were very well known,” Cele said.

Cele quoted the controversial Twitter account “Sphithiphithi Evaluator” as an example.

The person behind the account was identified as Zamaswazi Majozi, 36, who was arrested in August last year for inciting public violence on social media related to the violent unrest

ALSO READ: ‘I went to talk to the old man’: Cele says there were signs of unrest before Zuma’s arrest

The minister went on to say: “I was informed and got this correspondence… all these things that people were saying” [on social media]† I tried to verify with authentic structures [like] the SSA [State Security Agency]… unfortunately I can’t remember getting feedback on that.

“The question of 12 instigators comes from that briefing and most of those people have now been arrested. Nineteen people have been arrested and I think two of their cases have been withdrawn, but [the rest] are out on bail, so they are still going to court.”

Cele pointed out that the instigators’ information was not shared with National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole.

“It has certainly been shared with the Hawks to see the information and the individuals. Perhaps one of the reasons is that at that time people worked more with the deputies than with the national commissioner,” he said.

The minister told the SAHRC last December that Sitole “nowhere to be seenduring the turmoil.

Organized Attacks

The instigators are alleged to have used WhatsApp and Telegram to carry out their planned attacks, according to Daily Maverick

The publication cited senior ANC and security intelligence officials as their sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Screenshots of the messages – shared on Facebook – seem to show that the organized attacks targeted trucks, highways and businesses.

TimesLIVE reported that the WhatsApp group “Shutdown eThekwini” was founded just a day after former president Jacob Zuma was admitted to the Estcourt Correctional Center in KwaZulu-Natal to serve his 15-month prison term for contempt of court.

The group is said to include members of the ANC and government officials.

Intelligence reports

Earlier during the proceedings, Cele indicated that: there were signs of unrest for the imprisonment of Zuma

The minister also stressed that he does not recall receiving an intelligence report on riots from the Crime Intelligence Department of the South African Police Service (juice) and the State Security Service (SSA).

He said he did not receive the intelligence report until December 3, 2021, the day he testified at the SAHRC, warning of possible violence.

Meanwhile, Sitele admitted during his testimony to the commission that not all intelligence reports were sent to Cele.

The police commissioner said at the time that an early warning report had been received about the July riots, but there was no need to send the report to the minister.

READ NOW: ‘A bit of a war’: Cele says a conscious decision was made not to inform him about the July riots

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