The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) investigative hearings into the July riots began on Monday, with Police Minister Bheki Cele taking the position.
The SAHRC is holding a national investigative hearing into the devastating riots that swept through parts of Gauteng in July 2021.
The hearings continue until March 4†
While the focus this time is on Gauteng, the SAHRC is also expected to hear evidence coming from the hearings held in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) between November 15 and December 3 last year.
The riots from 8 to 19 July resulted in more than 330 people dieand cost R25 billion in damage.
The violence was ostensibly fueled by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma†
‘I went to talk to the old man’
During Monday’s procedureCele continued with his testimony, explaining to the SAHRC that his role as a minister is not operational, but he is sometimes present for oversight purposes.
“When the police have operations, I am sometimes physically present, [but I do] those operations do not lead [and] don’t tell the police what to do,” he said.
Cele explained that he could see the build-up to the violence even before Zuma’s arrest, so he visited the former president’s home in February last year†
“I went to talk to the old man” [and] the [was] famous that Cele [was] drink tea in Nkandla. It was part of seeing if things can’t be stopped before they hit a breaking point because you could tell they were going there.
“When the Constitutional Court [the] decision [that Zuma] would be incarnated… that was obvious,” he said.
“The arrest of the former president was one of those things that ignited what happened. Maybe we can discuss something else about the preparations [of the police] because [there was no] form of information or intelligence that would have helped mitigate what would have been expected to happen,” Cele continued.
Cele again said he could not recall receiving an intelligence report from the South African Police’s Crime Intelligence Division (SAPS) and the State Security Service (SSA).
“Not me [about] other people and other structures, but personally I can’t remember any kind of intelligence, but I would say the preparation would have been better,” he said.
He also said the rallies in Nkandla and calls to protect Zuma on social media were signs that the unrest was coming.
The minister previously criticized National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole and Saps’ crime information for failing to provide him with intelligence reports about the riots.