Johannesburg - Former police commissioner Bheki Cele has launched a new attack on Thuli Madonsela – this time accusing her of shielding and favouring Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa from her probe into the R250 million security upgrade at the president’s Nkandla homestead.
In a veiled threat, Cele has questioned the integrity of Madonsela’s investigation into the upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s home – asking how she has suddenly exonerated Mthethwa from wrongdoing without launching an investigation into him and his role in the upgrades.
At the centre of Cele’s gripe is Madonsela’s failure to subpoena Mthethwa for documents proving he indeed was responsible for the spending on the upgrades, despite an undertaking from her in January that she would do so.
Cele’s comments – in a letter sent to Madonsela this week through one of her investigators – follows an announcement by her office that the controversial report will be released in 10 days’ time.
Approached for comment on Saturday, Cele’s spokesman Vuyo Mkhize told The Sunday independent: “That letter was sent to the public protector, and the last time I checked you were not the public protector, so I have no reason discussing the contents of that letter with you.
“General Cele is not at liberty to comment on the contents of his leaked letters to the public protector at this time. I can, however, confirm, that he is very keen to find out how she managed to fill the massive information gaps she was grappling with as recently as last month to suddenly find herself in a position where she is ready to table her final report.”
On Saturday Madonsela would not confirm receipt of the e-mail. Asked to comment on Cele’s allegations that she was protecting Mthethwa, she said: “I don’t protect anyone. We find and tell the truth to the best of our ability.”
She would not comment on whether Cele had been removed from the report. “We do not discuss contents of investigation documents until we have a final report.”
But in the letter, seen by The Sunday Independent, Cele aims to address a few “supplementary concerns” about Madonsela’s investigation.
“Where matters stand is that a report will now be released in circumstances where information which the public protector ought to have taken into account, serious information by her own standard, is not before her on account of such fatal omission on her behalf,” said Cele.
In his letter, Cele asked Madonsela: “Does the public protector not think that the mere fact that she finalised her investigation and published her provisional report without having conducted an inquiry into the role that the police minister may have played in the Nkandla project (both in terms of the cabinet policy of 2003 and the National Key Points Act) raises questions about the integrity of the said investigation?”
According to Cele’s letter, Madonsela conceded that Cele was not police commissioner in May 2009, as she had suggested.
His possible involvement, according to his letter, was therefore based on the April 2010 declaration of the president’s house as a national key point.
“Has (she) since endeavoured to reopen her investigation into the SAPS involvement in the Nkandla project during May 2009 to April 2010? If not, does she not think that her failure to do so deals a fatal blow to the integrity of her entire investigation?” he asked.
Based on Cele’s previous letter to Madonsela, Mthethwa did not appoint him to assist in the performance of his functions in terms of the National Key Points Act or as the accounting officer for the special account for the safeguarding of the national key points.
The public spat between Cele and Madonsela has elicited harsh criticism of Cele, accusing him of delaying the release of the report as a point-scoring mechanism within the ANC. The spat first unfolded in January when she summoned him, alleging he was implicated in the Nkandla investigation.
There may be an “adverse finding” against him, said Madonsela in a letter to Cele on January 9, adding that as the accounting officer for the SAPS when the Department of Public Works initiated a process to install and implement security measures at Nkandla, Cele had failed to comply with procurement processes.
At the time, however, Cele insisted that Madonsela subpoena the police for crucial documents proving it was his responsibility.
His submission to her report would be based on these documents.
Cele also referred to a meeting with Madonsela on January 21, where she allegedly admitted it was a “mistake” to make and publish adverse findings against him in her provisional report, as they did not have a rational basis.
“She went on to suggest that this ‘mistake’ be rectified by retracting the said adverse finding… which my delegation and I expressly objected to on the basis that, in absence of a proper and comprehensive motivation, it could give birth to unnecessary controversy,” states Cele in the letters.
He questions whether she came across any further evidence to change her mind and concludes that such a finding was, in fact, justified.
“If not, has she made sure to include comprehensive reasons for not including it in her final report?”
In her letter to Cele in January, Madonsela said that, initially, security measures were to be implemented and installed in terms of the cabinet policy approved in August 2003.
In terms of the policy, it is the government’s responsibility to pay for security upgrades at the homes of the president and the deputy president and former presidents.
However, on April 8, 2010, the police minister declared the president’s private residence a national key point in terms of the National Key Points Act. This meant that the president was “obliged to take measures at his own cost” and to the satisfaction of the minister of police “to prevent or counter subversion, espionage and sabotage” in terms of the declaration and provisions of the act.
Therefore, everything that had to be done in terms of security at the president’s private residence (as a national key point) was, as from (April 8, 2010), not to be funded by the state, but by Zuma as the owner.
In alluding to Madonsela’s alleged favouring of Mthethwa, Cele once again refers to the meeting between him and Madonsela.
According to the letter, Cele has asked her to clarify her remarks that “the minister of police appears to have been failed by the people he relied upon to perform his duties throughout the course of the Nkandla project”.
Cele continues that in the response Madonsela allegedly said that she “(may) have gone and put (my) foot in it, again”.
He then asks: “Does (the public protector) not agree that this admitted faux pas betrays an inherent bias in favour of the police minister which would also deal a fatal blow to the integrity of her entire investigation?”
Mthethwa’s acting chief of staff Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane said the minister would not comment on the accusations made in Cele’s letter.
“The government…conducted an investigation into this and comprehensively dealt with all matters relating to the upgrade of Nkandla. The report on this investigation is now a matter of public record, and the minister of police won’t comment further. The minister will await the public protector’s report,” she said.