Sick witness stalls Cele inquiry
Pretoria - A key witness in the police lease saga stalled proceedings on Friday, claiming she was sick and could not testify.
Public works official Mokgaetji Tlolane told the board of inquiry investigating misconduct allegations against suspended police chief Bheki Cele that she first needed to see a doctor before she gave evidence.
“I won’t be able to testify, I am not feeling well. I’ll testify when the doctor confirms I’m in a condition to do so,” Tlolane responded to a question by board chairperson Judge Jake Moloi.
She said her condition had worsened in the last two weeks, though she had reported for work in the past two days.
Earlier she had problems taking the oath, looking confused. She subsequently told Moloi that she could not understand what was being requested of her.
“All you have to say is 'so help me God',” Moloi intervened, before Tlolane feebly complied.
Evidence leader Viwe Notshe said he had failed to get a sworn statement from Tlolane, citing her condition.
Notshe hoped Tlolane’s evidence would eliminate the probability that property mogul Roux Shabangu could have been tipped off by public works officials that the police needed office space.
Shabangu has identified Tlolane as the person who informed him that the police wanted to lease the Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria.
This is reportedly contained in a 60-page affidavit Shabangu aims to use to absolve himself of any wrongdoing in the police lease saga.
Shabangu claims Tlolane arranged the first meeting with the SA Police Service, and told him the matter would not go out to tender because of its urgency.
Asked by Moloi if she had seen a draft statement supposedly made by her, Tlolane responded: “I did not draft that statement. I will only look at it when I am feeling better.”
Moloi postponed the matter to March 30, saying this would give Tlolane ample time. However, a medical certificate would have to be handed to the board.
Notshe confirmed with the board that Tlolane had indeed been “off sick” when he contacted her two weeks ago.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi was asked to intervene on Thursday, when the elusive Tlolane refused to appear unless she was given a letter indemnifying her from prosecution.
Tlolane had been eluding Notshe since Monday.
She initially demanded a subpoena to appear, and then a letter from her superiors instructing her to do so.
This ultimately led to Moloi adjourning the matter on Thursday, citing the importance of Tlolane’s appearance.
Cele has consistently claimed he had nothing to do with identifying the two buildings - Sanlam Middestad in Pretoria and Transnet in Durban - for police office space. This was despite Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's negative findings about his role last year.
Heads of argument by evidence leaders are expected to be filed no later than March 23, while Cele’s defence has until March 28 to do so.