July unrest a ‘planned gathering with unpredicted modus operandi’: Sitole

National police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole conceded law enforcement should have had a plan of action in place to deal with the unrest and looting in July. File photo.
National police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole conceded law enforcement should have had a plan of action in place to deal with the unrest and looting in July. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

July’s unrest, which swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, was a “planned gathering with an unpredicted modus operandi”, national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole testified before the SA Human Rights Commission hearing on Monday.

He conceded police should have had a plan of action in place because it was a planned gathering, but emphasised protesters had “changed” their modus operandi to a “first of its kind” in SA.

Supporters of Jacob Zuma plunged the two provinces into chaos and destruction from July 8 to 18 after the former president was jailed by the Constitutional Court. The protest then turned into more general looting, violence and destruction of property.

Sitole told the panel at the investigative hearing: “The unrest in July started with the execution of the Constitutional Court order. There was a fully fledged operation plan. There was an early warning issued. Because the modus operandi was not known, there was no contingency plan put into place.

“The modus operandi was unpredicted. Immediately after the outbreak, there was a fully fledged operation plan.”

Sitole said he would make the approved plan available to the commission.

On Monday morning he continued to be grilled on deployments and police resources. 

The scope of the unrest hearing, which began in Durban last Monday, includes apparent  racially motivated killings, the lack of law enforcement, the role of private security companies, the targeting of retail outlets and businesses, and speculation that the unrest and looting were orchestrated.

This is a developing story.

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