Cele 'golden handshakes' probed
Cape Town - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is investigating a slew of golden handshakes worth R31m given to policemen on the watch of suspended national commissioner Bheki Cele.
Mthethwa told MPs on Wednesday that in a bid to stop long-running abuse of the police's special pensions system, he had decreed that the national commissioner may no longer award pay-outs without his approval.
"If you are applying this section 35 thing I have to know. I have to say 'yea' or 'nay'," he said, adding that the SA Police Act would soon be amended to this effect.
"The issue is that it has been a culture of section 35s being implemented without informing the executive authority... this is a huge matter, it cannot be left to the national commissioner alone," he told Parliament's portfolio committee on police.
Mthethwa's remarks follow controversy last month over a R1.1m pay-out given to former Gauteng crime intelligence chief Joey Mabasa, on top of his pension.
He was one of 19 policemen retrenched under section 35 of the act in the past two financial years. They received pay-outs totalling R31.2m.
Cele denied that his decision on Mabasa was informed by allegations linking the crime intelligence chief to Czech fraud accused Radovan Krejcir.
Instead, he told incredulous MPs last month, the police no longer had a suitable position for Mabasa because of internal restructuring.
Mthethwa said he had discussed the case with Cele and although he had been assured that Mabasa had no case to answer, he was not convinced that this applied to all the other recipients of special pensions.
He was in the process of scrutinising every successful section 35 application in recent years, not to recover the money, but to make sure people had not been released to cover up wrongdoing.
"You can't review. It would be difficult to get the money back from them, in fact it is impossible because it is pension money.
"I have instructed the secretariat to interact with the police to make sure that indeed nobody gets away with murder.
"I wanted to understand who these people are for the sole purpose that you can't, because you have been granted section 35, get away from a criminal investigation.
He added: "What is most worrying... when we focus on those people we will be missing the point, they did not give themselves the money.
"I think for ourselves the focus has been rather, knowing not only the 20 we are talking about, but how many others, because it has been going on for years. It has been a culture that has hardened."
Mthethwa said he had been surprised to learn that deputy national commissioner Andre Pruis was among those who received a section 35 pay-out.
"What is not provided for is that when somebody is in any event going for a pension you give section 35 - that is part of abuse that is investigated."
Mthethwa said amendments to the act would be fast-tracked and should reach Cabinet within months.
"We have the final draft. I will be taking this to Cabinet next year."
He said he was also investigating some 20 cases in the past two years where people were recruited within the police after external applications were invited under section 45 of the act.
"Section 45 appointments are under investigation because it is my contention that if you apply section 45 the way it has been applied in the police currently, I need to have substance out of that.
"People would go and advertise and then appoint somebody in the police. Why not just go straight and appoint somebody in the police?"
Cele was suspended by President Jacob Zuma last month over his role in the police headquarters scandal. Mthethwa told MPs he had the fullest confidence in acting commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.