/ 15 February 2022

Sitole slams Cele’s accusation of plot against him involving Malema

Sitole Cele
Police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba has previously conceded to the Mail & Guardian that the animosity between Bheki Cele and Khehla Sitole had undermined confidence in the police’s crime-fighting efforts.

National police commissioner Khehla Sitole has slammed claims by Police Minister Bheki Cele that the top cop was embroiled in a conspiracy with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema to remove the minister from office. 

Malema unexpectedly entered the neverending, acrimonious feud between Cele and Sitole during Monday’s parliament debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, delivered on 10 February. 

Moreover, the continuing saga between Cele and Sitole underscores assertions by the police ministry that the issues between the two “caused uncertainty” within the country.  

During his Monday address, Cele made startling statements about Malema and Sitole meeting to hatch a plan for the minister’s removal. The police minister said Malema needed to wait his turn to be president, and not get involved in alleged conspiracies around choosing a cabinet, when he was not state president. 

“I’m not going to go back — on 10 of December 2020 there was a meeting between yourself [Malema] and the national commissioner, and the plan and the plot was hatched that I must be chased [out of cabinet],” Cele said.

“So, I’m not surprised that today, this is happening.”

Sitole responds

But Sitole rubbished the minister’s allegations, saying the meeting the national commissioner had with Malema was meant to discuss the EFF leader’s security concerns. 

In a statement on Tuesday, Sitole’s office said the meeting between Malema and the commissioner’s office was organised “at the behest of the Deputy Minister of Police, Cassel Charlie Mathale”.  

Mathale is an old political associate of Malema, with both of them hailing from Limpopo. Malema mentioned during his grandmother’s funeral in May 2019 that Sarah Malema had often asked after Mathale and his wellbeing after Malema’s expulsion from the ANC in February 2012. 

“The deputy minister requested Sitole to meet with Malema to address potential threats against him [Malema],” reads the commissioner’s statement. 

“Malema met with the national commissioner and the head of protection and security services, lieutenant general Sam Shitlabane, in 2020 at the Tshwane Training Academy. The meeting was solely about the alleged threats against Malema and nothing else to which feedback was provided to the deputy minister.”

“The national commissioner is amazed by the fact that his name and image is being tarnished for political reasons. He decided to issue this statement of clarity since his name is mentioned in parliament and it’s important for such an institution to know and understand the facts.”

Police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba has previously conceded to the Mail & Guardian that the animosity between Cele and Sitole had undermined confidence in the police’s crime-fighting efforts. 

The M&G reported in July last year that Ramaphosa had been made aware of the tension between the minister and commissioner, with accusations that Cele was interfering with operational matters that were the preserve of Sitole.