Persistent Cele made me do it – Hlela

2012-03-06 09:17

Suspended police commissioner General Bheki Cele was so “persistent” to move into property mogul Roux Shabangu’s building that his former deputy, Hamilton Hlela, did not put the lease out to tender.

This is what Hlela alleged on the first day of Cele’s hearing into the latter’s fitness to hold office.

The long-awaited hearing, which kicked off yesterday at the City of Tshwane council chambers in Pretoria, continues today.

Both men, who have since fallen out, are pointing fingers at each other in the R500 million lease debacle over the building which was meant to be the new police headquarters.

Hlela, who resigned from the South African Police Service in September 2010, a few weeks after the lease was awarded to Shabangu, told the Board of Inquiry that he did not inform Cele that he (Hlela) and the department of public works had decided against going out to tender for the lease.

Hlela faced some tough questions about his own conduct from Cele’s lawyer, advocate Vincent Maleka (SC).

Asked why he didn’t inform Cele about the decision, Hlela blamed Cele saying: “Cele was persistent. He gave me the orders to talk to the owner of the building (Shabangu) and I was following orders.”

Hlela, who was head of the police supply chain management responsible for tenders could not, however, explain why he had not informed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela about a meeting he arranged with Shabangu where the lease was discussed.

Maleka accused Hlela of “misleading” Madonsela, Cele and the public works by not disclosing the meeting he and other SA Police Service members had with Shabangu.

Hlela said it was “not improper” for Cele to inform him about the availability of the Middestad building.

Shabangu told City Press recently that he would not be giving any evidence to the hearing but rather he has opted to hand-in a written submission stating his side of the story.

Madonsela, whose report into the lease debacle was admitted into evidence at the hearing, also said she would not give any evidence. She said she had done what she was supposed to do.

Earlier in the first day, Hlela admitted that he knew that the SA Police Service communications unit, which was meant to move into the building before the start of the Fifa 2010 World Cup – an event used as the basis for not going out to tender – in July, would not be able to move in in time for the soccer showpiece.

On more than five occasions Hlela, who would not say whether he considered Cele to have acted in a corrupt manner, blamed the suspended police chief for the debacle.

Hlela admitted that he had initiated the meeting where he motivated for the change of the tender process from being a closed one to an open process, despite the fact that Cele had only authorised an open tender process.

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