Five-star hotel, maternity leave, everything but fighting the unrest, SAHRC hears

KZN police boss ‘contradicts’ former defence minister’s evidence at unrest hearing

2021-11-30 09:47:00 PM

KZN police boss ‘contradicts’ former defence minister’s evidence at unrest hearing

KZN police boss ‘contradicts’ former defence minister’s evidence at unrest hearing

A LOT TO ANSWER FORKwaZulu-Nata provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and deputy commissioner Major-Gen Phumelele Makoba said all their meetings with the SANDF were on record.Image:suppliedDetails of meetings at a five-star hotel with ex-defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and SA National Defence Force members, requests for more officers on the ground and the circumstances of Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi’s paternity leave “contradicted” testimony that he was uncooperative during the July unrest.

Mkhwanazi, the KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner, was ready to sing like a canary on what “would make the ex-defence minister sweat under the collar” at the SA Human Rights Commission hearing into the unrest on Tuesday. However, the panel made a request to stand down, to privately caution him against revealing sensitive information on state security and operational plans.

Mkhwanazi still rubbished claims by Mapisa-Nqakula that he was uncooperative and went on paternity leave at the height of the unrest.“I will outline the timeline. Other witnesses have spoken a lot about me and about my family and some of them have given my child a name — bundle of joy. I do not know what it means. This has created an image to South Africans at large that there is one Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who is in charge of 18,000 police officers in the province and seems not to have known what he was doing at the time. This has been presented by very senior government officials and leaves me no choice but to stand here before South Africans and express exactly what happened,” he said.

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Mkhwanazi said he requested reinforcements from the national police department on July 2, when he sensed the angry mood in Nkandla after the Constitutional Court ruling to jail former president Jacob Zuma.Over the next few days, Mkhwanazi realised that “something big” was going to happened though there had been no intelligence on the impending unrest.

He said social media was abuzz with threats and trucks were being torched. Therefore he requested more reinforcements and even suggested the SANDF be deployed to the province.“Whoever organised the unrest took time to research our security force and knew our shortcomings. We had already communicated and requested additional deployments. We asked them to send down the SANDF, so they could free up the SAPS to go out to enforce the law,” he said.

Whoever organised the unrest took time to research our security force and knew our shortcomings. We had already communicated and requested additional deployments.Lt-Gen Nhlanhla MkhwanaziAt least 18,000 KwaZulu-Natal police officers were on duty.  

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After his requests for reinforcement, 174 officers arrived from other provinces on July 3, 315 on July 11 and 278 on July 13.At the same time, Mkhwanazi was supposed to be self-isolating, as he had come in contact with a senior officer from the national department, who had tested positive for Covid-19.

“Yes, I went out but I was alone in my vehicle. I know I should have been self-isolating but I had a job to do,” he said.Mkhwanazi said he had planned leave from July 18, as his wife was to give birth in Pretoria the next day.“I accepted that I wouldn’t be there due to what was happening in the province. My wife made peace with it and understood because she is in the police force,” he said.

However, with the permission of the national commissioner and police minister, Mkhwanazi went on leave.Four days later, he drove his wife and newborn 1,000km to his in-laws’ house before making his way back to KwaZulu-Natal, he said.Before that, on July 15, when the national ministers, including Mapisa-Nqakula, arrived in the province, Mkhwanazi held a meeting with them.

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“The former minister came here and indicated a lack of cooperation and that her colonel was not being furnished with intelligence from us. We have it all on record. All our meetings were documented,” he said.Mkhwanazi told the commission that while he was on paternity leave, there were meetings at the five-star Beverly Hills Hotel.

“I don’t know what operation the SANDF was having there but my colleague will go deeper into it,” he said.Deputy provincial commissioner Maj-Gen Phumelele Makoba said she was in constant contact with the top officers from the SANDF and they had been meeting her in her office.

She then heard that SANDF generals from head office were at the Beverley Hills Hotel.Uninvited, Makoba made her way to the hotel and was welcomed to discuss the “threats”.“I was introduced to the minister of defence as well as the minister of state security. We had meetings late into the evening and another meeting at 7am the next day,” Makoba testified.

Makoba said she met the contingent twice a day.“I was not aware of any disintegration of communication.”The SAHRC panel requested more time to study Mkhwanazi’s evidence as it “contradicted” Mapisa-Nqakula’s allegations. He will therefore be called again later.

Why do you think that you are still fit to be police commissioner of SA?Adv Smanga Sethene to national police commissioner Gen Khehla SitoleEarlier at the hearing national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole insisted that he was still fit to do his job.

Grilled on why he believed he could lead the SAPS while the country burned, billions of rand were lost and people were killed under his watch during the unrest, Sitole denied that his actions were a gross dereliction of his duty.Adv Smanga Sethene put it to Sitole that he showed “brazen incompetence” in relation to the unrest. 

“Why do you think that you are still fit to be police commissioner of SA? The material and brazen security lapses that embarrassed the country, while the head of state could not even receive the intelligence report — why does Gen Sitole think he is still fit to be the national commissioner of police?

“Do you still want to do it when you have proven beyond doubt that you have failed? You have failed the country. You have conceded that an estimated R50bn has been lost. The country’s image has been tarnished. Investor confidence has nosedived. Why do you think you still deserve to hold the position?”

However, Sitole was not shaken by Sethene’s words.

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