Opposition parties, Cosatu criticise protector raid

2011-03-03 14:26

An unauthorised raid on the public protector’s office suggested that the SA Police Service was being abused for political revenge, opposition parties said today.

“Commissioner [General Bheki] Cele has denied any knowledge of this raid. However, we have seen the SAPS retaliate against its perceived enemies before,” Democratic Alliance Lindiwe Mazibuko spokesperson said.

“Last year, commissioner Cele denounced Mzilikazi wa Afrika after that reporter implicated the commissioner in an irregular property deal that eventually lead to his censure from the Public Protector. Within a matter of days, Mr Wa Afrika was arrested by the SAPS on flimsy charges that were later dropped.

“Last week, commissioner Cele chastised the Public Protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela, for her criticism of his conduct in the Roux Shabangu property deal where she said Cele’s conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration. Now, her office has been raided by the SAPS,” said Mazibuko.

This raised many questions, she said.

“Who authorised the raid? Were those involved in any way linked to the commissioner? How can raids of this significance be conducted without the commissioner’s knowledge? Does the commissioner have control of the SAPS?”
The Congress of SA Trade Unions said it was “outraged” at the incident.

“While we welcome the statements by the spokespersons of both the SAPS and Bheki Cele, condemning the raid and denying that they sanctioned it, this begs the question of who then did sanction and authorise the raid,” said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven.

“The SAPS must urgently investigate and find and punish those responsible.”

Craven said the office of the public protector was “a cornerstone of our democracy”.

“It is a last resort for citizens who have failed to receive justice from the state and for whistle-blowers who want to expose crime and corruption. Any doubt as to the independence of the office could deter people from lodging their complaints and jeopardise all its work,” said Craven.

Freedom Front Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald described the raid as an attack on democracy.

“It is difficult to believe that the raid took place without the knowledge of the police commissioner, General Bheki Cele. This action shows that Cele should be suspended immediately,” said Groenewald.

Earlier, the SAPS said it would investigate the raid by crime intelligence officials.

“We condemn the raid and we didn’t sanction it and we are launching an investigation to deal with the people that are responsible,” said SAPS spokesperson McIntosh Polela.

“We need to emphasise that we are concerned that it is going to be seen as an intimidation of the office of the public protector and we need to put it on record that we respect and support the office of the public protector,” said Polela.

He added that he was speaking in his capacity as SAPS spokesperson, and not as the Hawks’ spokesperson.

The SAPS believed the raid was an attempt to get hold of documents in the report.

“The belief is they were looking for documents that Cele was refused access to during the investigation by the Public Protector,” said Polela.

Last month, Madonsela issued a report which concluded that the national police commissioner allegedly unlawfully authorised a lease agreement for police offices.

Cele has denied any wrongdoing.

Cele’s spokesperson Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha agreed with Polela in a joint statement, signed by her and Polela, condemning the incident.

“The SAPS management strongly condemns an act of alleged invasion of the office of the Public Protector by members from counter intelligence.

“The members acted outside their mandate hence appropriate action is being instituted accordingly,” they said.

“The support and belief of the SA Police Service in the constitutional mandate of the office of the public protector is unwavering, and therefore conduct of the type alleged cannot be condoned.”

The public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, declined to comment immediately, saying he was drafting a statement.

Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said today that Cabinet was “processing” Madonsela’s report on the SAPS’s controversial R500-million lease of a Pretoria building.

“Cabinet has instructed the Secretary of Cabinet [Cassius Lubisi] and the Minister of Justice [Jeff Radebe] to interact with the Public Protector’s office on the report,” Manyi told reporters following Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting yesterday.

The Sunday Times originally broke the story of the lease agreement last year.

Shortly after the story implicating Cele was published in August, the police arrested Wa Afrika, who co-wrote the article, on an unrelated charge.

He was held in custody for a day before being released.

A prosecutor later declined to press charges against him.

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