The general may be down, but it appears he is far from out. There are strong indications that ANC structures in KwaZulu-Natal are keen for Bheki Cele to play a leading role in the province.
Speaking in Pretoria yesterday, Cele said he should not be compared to his disgraced predecessor Jackie Selebi or suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
Defending himself after being fired by President Jacob Zuma, Cele said he had not been charged with any crime and no evidence of corruption against him had been uncovered by the public protector and the board of inquiry that got him fired.
He said people seemed to forget that he was the one who had Mdluli arrested and suspended when serious allegations against him surfaced and that he also instituted a Special Investigations Unit probe into the SAPS’ supply-chain management division.
Selebi is serving a 15-year jail term for corruption, while Mdluli is suspended with various allegations levelled against him in connection with the alleged looting of the crime intelligence secret slush fund.
ANC members in the Emalahleni (Newcastle) region want their leaders to discuss Cele’s political future with the provincial leadership.
Arthur Zwane the chairman of the ANC’s Emalahleni region said: “I personally think Cele has a role to play politically. He was a member of the provincial executive committee and the national executive committee and he resigned when he was appointed as the police commissioner.”
Zwane said Cele had done nothing wrong in the ANC.
“The ANC has invested so much in him; he trained as an MK soldier, played a critical role in peacekeeping structures. When there were volatile times he was the first one on the scene. My region wants us to raise his matter formally with the ANC and we will table it formally with the KZN provincial executive committee on how he will be brought back,” said Zwane.
Thulani Mashaba, chair- man of the Musa Dladla (north coast) region, said Cele was a “politician by nature” and that the branches of the ANC would now determine what role he should play.
“He is good at mobilising communities, especially in KZN. I am convinced that the branches of the ANC consider him a leader. The reality is that there are many leaders of the ANC who have been removed from government posts, but we managed to bring them back, including president Jacob Zuma.
“I am sure South Africans and people of KZN will still want to see him working.”
Last month Cele received a rousing welcome from delegates in Newcastle at the ANC’s provincial conference with chants of Ndosi, Ndosi (his clan name) ringing out as he took his seat.
However, the ANC’s provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said this week that while the province had been kept up to date about the president’s decisions, “we have not discussed him (Cele) being in a leadership position in KZN.”
He said Cele was an activist, his life had been in politics and he remained active in the party. Zikalala said it would be expected that he would still play a role in the ANC.
Even Zuma in sacking Cele said: “General Cele still has a lot to contribute to the country, given his experience and commitment to making South Africa a better place for all each day.”
Lower south coast secretary, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, said he agreed with Zuma that Cele had a lot of energy and a role to play in the organisation.
Mkhwanazi said that while a specific position had not been discussed for Cele, the ANC in the province would hold an extended provincial executive meeting next week and Cele would most likely be discussed.
Cele met with several regions at the Newcastle conference, but ANC insiders insist it was not to discuss his comeback but to get a first hand account of what was happening.
Cele said his legal team would bring a review application in the Johannesburg High Court to seek an order setting aside the commission of inquiry’s findings.