The suspect was arrested on Saturday in Pietermaritzburg while attempting to board a bus to Gauteng.
National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole said the man was arrested and charged with murder and for being unlawfully in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Cele died at St Augustine’s Hospital on Friday.
His uncle, Sanah Mdlalose, said Cele was like a son to him and that it was not only the family that lost a loved one but the whole community “lost a friend and a man that was dedicated to protecting his fellow citizens”.
“When I got the call from the hospital saying he was shot, I just wanted to know how bad his condition was. They told me Phephe (Cele’s nickname) was critical but I was sure he would pull through but 45 minutes later they called me and told me he was gone. It is painful because he was still very young. He is survived by his wife and two children. The younger one is still in crèche and the older one is in Grade 8,” added Mdlalose.
This was the second shooting of a police officer within 24 hours.
Captain Muzingaye Mthiyane, 54, who was stationed at Mariannhill Public Order Policing Unit, was gunned down near his New Germany home on Thursday while walking home from a local store. Police said neighbours heard gunshots and went outside to investigate. They saw a white Toyota double cab with tinted windows speeding off.
Mthiyane’s 26-year-old son Ndumiso told The Daily News his father had left the house saying he was going to the bank.
“We were called by people in our area saying dad was lying next to the road not far from our house. It was shocking for everyone.
“My mother did not go to the scene because it was too much for her to see that. We still cannot believe he is gone. He was a father, husband, brother, a grandpa and he was a breadwinner,” an emotional Ndumiso said.
Commenting on the two deaths, Sitole condemned the ongoing attacks on, and murder of, police officials.
He described Friday’s shooting as an attack on the authority of the state.
He also applauded the multidisciplinary team for securing the arrest of Cele’s alleged killer.
“The arrest of the suspect within 48 hours of the commission of this crime must be commended. This arrest should serve as a deterrent and warning to all who continue to undermine the authority of the state by attacking and killing law enforcement officers,” he said.