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Conflict of interest in Cele inquiry

General Bheki Cele. Photo: Sizwe Ndingane

General Bheki Cele. Photo: Sizwe Ndingane

Published Oct 29, 2011

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The chairperson of the board of inquiry into national police commissioner General Bheki Cele’s fitness for office has been changed – just days after the inquiry was announced – apparently due to an oversight on points of law and conflicts of interest.

It emerged that retired Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro is on the board of the South African Police Service Trust Fund, a position which might attract claims of a conflict of interest.

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Another reason is legislation which stipulates that a sitting High Court judge should head such an inquiry.

Justice ministry spokesman Tlali Tlali said on Friday the decision to change the chairperson had been taken to avoid any possible perception of a conflict of interest, even at a technical level.

Judge Jake Moloi, who in 2009 became the first black lawyer to be appointed to the Free State High Court, now takes over. The other two board of inquiry members, advocates Terry Motau (SC) and Anthea Platt, are to remain.

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Friday saw another change following President Jacob Zuma’s dramatic announcements on Monday – one of the judges on the arms deal commission of inquiry, Pretoria High Court deputy judge president Willem van der Merwe, has asked to be released for personal reasons.

No details were given in a brief statement by presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj.

Nor was a replacement for Judge van der Merwe announced and it was not clear whether there would be one.

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“The president thanks both judges for initially availing themselves for these tasks and looks forward to working with them on other assignments,” Maharaj said on Friday.

Zuma announced both inquiries on Monday.

The public protector had found that Cele acted unlawfully in the R1.7 billion police office leases in Pretoria and Durban. And while the presidency announced at the end of August it had requested that Cele furnish reasons why he should not be suspended pending an inquiry, it took almost another seven weeks before a decision was made.

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At the same special briefing, Zuma announced changes to his cabinet – axing former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, against whom the public protector also issued damning findings over the police lease saga, and ex-co-operative governance minister Sicelo Shiceka, who the public protector found to have acted dishonestly and unlawfully in using taxpayers’ money for an overseas trip to visit a girlfriend in jail and stays in super luxury hotels.

Shiceka indicated immediately after the findings were made public that he was taking legal advice to challenge them. - Political Bureau

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