I’m fit, and I’ll prove it — Cele

2012-03-07 00:00

SUSPENDED national police commissioner General Bheki Cele believes he is more than fit to be the country’s top cop — and even Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has not said otherwise.

This will be the nub of his argument when he takes the stand during day three of an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

His counsel Vincent Maleka SC yesterday told the inquiry that Cele acted out of concern when he raised issues relating to the police’s future accommodation.

He had done so because he knew the lease at the police’s Pretoria HQ was ending.

In his 22-page written submission, Cele rejects “the insinuation that the leases were intended to benefit persons with whom I may have a relationship”.

“I submit that my conduct in relation to the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Public Protector do not reflect adversely on my suitability to continue to hold office and my ability to discharge my functions and duties…”

In his submission, Cele also denied any relationship with the owners of the Middestad and Transnet buildings in Pretoria and Durban. “My statements to that effect have not been repudiated or proven to be false by anyone.”

Cele also argues that at the time of his appointment, crime levels were very high, but through a number of strategies and policies he introduced, there were significant decreases, especially in murders and violent crime.

He notes that Madonsela’s investigation did not make any findings about his suitability or otherwise “to properly, effectively and efficiently fulfil my functions and duties as national commissioner.”

In addition to reducing crime, Cele lists the following as improvements under his watch:

• The introduction of tactical response teams (TRTs), which played a major role in fighting cash heists, bank robberies and other armed robberies in commercial centres and shopping malls.

• The establishment of police tracking teams to track and trace the country’s most wanted criminals.

• Extending the training of SAPS members from one year to two years to establish a high level of professionalism and a career oriented police force.

• IT skilling of SAPS members to fight white collar crimes such as fraud, forgery and money laundering.

• Employing legally qualified or legally trained police officials to take statements in order to improve conviction rates in criminal trials.

• The establishment of a Police Orphans Education Trust to help with challenges experienced by dependents of officers killed on duty.

• The introduction of regular top management meetings to discuss necessary strategies and tactics to combat crime at all levels.

Testifying on the second day of the inquiry yesterday, former deputy national commissioner Lieutenant-General Hamilton Hlela told the inquiry that Cele had called him and was angry over delays in leasing the Pretoria Midde­stad building,

“He was fuming when he called me. He said I didn’t want to give him the two floors at the Midde­stad building,” Hlela said.

Cele had caused him severe mental discomfort, leading to his early retirement, Hlela said.

“I told him that I was not the one handling the matter, but the department of Public Works. I wanted to serve in the police until I reached 60 years, but had to leave at 55.”

Maleka accused Hlela of making the claims to suit his testimony after reading Madonsela’s report on the leases.

In his testimony Brigadier Alpheus Ngema said he had raised concerns with his immediate bosses about the handling of the Trans­net building in Durban.

Ngema referred to a meeting attended by the provincial police leadership and representatives of the building’s owner, but not the Public Works Department.

When he realised this, he told KZN provincial commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni that he felt very uncomfortable.

“She pushed me aside and when we finished viewing the building we went back to our offices. I told her again that we were not supposed to be meeting with the landlord without involving DPW.”

Ngobeni did not answer him, but instructed him to find out the status of the Servamus building lease.

He said Ngobeni had wanted to convey this information to Cele, whom she was meeting at the airport.

However, Maleka disputed the claim, saying Cele did not remember ever meeting Ngobeni at the airport.

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