Cele inquiry takes a knock

2012-03-14 08:45

The state’s case against suspended police commissioner Bheki Cele has been thrown into disarray as a key witness from the department of public works apparently refused to sign an affidavit on the advice of union representatives in her department.

It was a frustrating day for the board of inquiry into Cele’s fitness to hold office yesterday as witnesses refused to come forward to testify.

Head of the board of inquiry, Judge Jake Moloi, had to postpone the hearing three times as police generals and senior public works officials did not respond to requests to give testimony.

Eventually none of the witnesses testified as expected.

Moloi will ask Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to intervene to compel two police generals to testify.

The fact that the board is not empowered to subpoena witnesses means that it cannot force any of the key role players to come forward to testify.

Moloi lamented the fact that the two generals – the police’s chief operations officer, Lieutenant-General Bonang Mgwenya, and KwaZulu-Natal provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni – could not be located despite the fact that they had been asked by the board to testify.

Another witness, believed to be Mokgaetji Tlolane, who was acting regional manager of public works in Pretoria at the time the building leases were signed, apparently refused to sign her affidavit on the advice of union representatives.

In his affidavit to the North Gauteng High Court, Roux Shabangu, who is opposing public works’ application to have leases for police office space nullified, said that it was Tlolane who arranged his first meeting with SAPS generals to view his building.

According to state attorney Viwe Notshe, who is leading evidence against Cele, the witness, Tlolane, had already written her accounts of events, leading up to the lease being signed, when union representatives told her not to sign the statement because she was not subpoenaed to do so.

Three other witnesses from the department have apparently also refused to testify.

City Press understands that suspended public works director-general Siviwe Dongwana and suspended acting director-general Sam Vukela and a senior manager, Vusi Mashiane, do not want to give testimony in the hearing.

Cele’s lawyer, advocate Vincent Maleka, was also not happy about the delays, adding that he was frustrated by the fact that the state would not reveal who its next witness would be.

Notshe said he could not name the next witness, believed to be Tlolane, because he was yet to receive her statement and convince her to testify.

City Press obtained a copy of Cele’s 22-page statement about his role in the leases saga in which he questions the entire process to suspend him and establish an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

Cele argues that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela never found any “incestuous or improper” relationship between him and Shabangu.

He also argues that Madonsela did not make any finding about his fitness to hold office.

“As accounting officer (of the SAPS) I have ensured that there are appropriate systems of management and administration ... There’s no ground to conclude that I am not suitable to continue to hold office or that I am unable to effectively execute my duties,” says Cele.

His statement does not, however, mention the Middestad building in Pretoria and the Transnet building in Durban. Instead Cele talks about his days in the struggle, his days as a teacher at Mtwalume High School in KwaZulu-Natal and his shining record as commissioner of police.

Cele also believes that he has fulfilled and “properly managed the financial affairs of the SAPS” and that his conduct in the leases deal “does not reflect adversely” on him as police chief.

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