Suspended national police commissioner, General Bheki Cele, is headed for court after a board of inquiry into his fitness for office recommended that South Africa’s police chief be fired for his involvement in the police headquarters leasing scandal.
Cele’s spokesman, Vuyo Mkhize, on Friday said that the report was full of factual errors and could not be taken seriously.
“It does not just cast doubts over the report, but rubbishes it entirely.”
According to the eNews report on Thursday night, the board of inquiry found that Cele lacked the capacity to execute his official duties efficiently and was not fit to hold office.
The television news channel reported that the board found his grave misconduct as national police commissioner and his apparent unlawful conduct proved that he was unable to hold office.
It reported that evidence also suggested there was a questionable relationship between Cele and property tycoon, Roux Shabangu. Mkhize said that Cele had anticipated the backlash after the leak of the 133-page report.
“In fact, he is relieved that the information is out there – the findings were not a surprise,” he said.
He said that he and his team were exploring all possible avenues to get the report set aside.
“The first of these is making an urgent High Court application to exclude the report,” he said.
Mkhize said that there were about 20 assertions that could be proved wrong. He said that a prime example of this was the appointment of KwaZulu-Natal provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni.
Her appointment process, outlined the report, was not in accordance with procedure.
The post, according to the report, was not advertised; she had not applied for the job; and she was not interviewed.
Other claims, such as the corrupt relationship between Shabangu, were just claims, he said.
“There is no proof,” he said.
Ngobeni on Friday said that she was awaiting the official release of the report before responding to the claims.
The Mail & Guardian reported that the three-person inquiry unanimously recommended Cele be sacked.
The board’s finding that Cele was dishonest is based on its acceptance of the evidence of Hamilton Hlela, the former deputy national commissioner in charge of procurement and the man who has emerged as Cele’s nemesis in the leasing saga.
According to the Mail & Guardian, the report found there was “no reason to doubt” Hlela’s evidence.
It noted: “This is corroborated by the fact that, on the same afternoon, Shabangu, a person completely unknown to Hlela, telephoned him. The most plausible and reasonable inference to be drawn from the set of facts is that the national commissioner knew Shabangu and that he gave him Hlela’s contact numbers. He consequently thus had an interest in Shabangu securing the lease.”
The report concludes: “The evidence established that the national commissioner, as the accounting officer of the SAPS, grossly misconducted himself with regard to the procurement of the Sanlam Middestad and the Transnet buildings…
“The evidence demonstrated that the national commissioner favoured the buildings owned by Shabangu and that he, together with Shabangu, pushed for the entire buildings in both Pretoria and Durban to be leased by the SAPS, even when the needs analysis showed that a lesser amount of lettable space was required.
“The insistence of the national commissioner on his innocence in this regard demonstrates palpably that he fails to appreciate the nature and importance of the responsibilities attached to his position,” the report said.
Gareth Newham, head of the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice programme, told the Daily News that the board of inquiry had been a “waste of time” and that there should have been a criminal investigation, not only into Cele’s actions, but also those of former public works minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and Shabangu, whose buildings were at the centre of the R1.7 billion leasing scandal.
Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, told Independent Newspapers on Thursday night that Zuma was still “processing” the report – on which he was briefed by the board on Sunday – and that he would “announce his response in due course”.
Responding to speculation that advocate Nathi Nhleko – currently the director-general at the Labour Department – was the frontrunner to replace Cele if he got the boot, Maharaj said “there is no basis for the speculation”.
Newham warned that the appointment of another career politician with little or no knowledge of how the police works, and without a public process through which citizens could be sure that the best man or woman for the job had been chosen, would only see the “crisis in the police continue”. –
Additional reporting by Kamcilla Pillay