Cele latest high-profile lease saga victim

2012-06-12 22:55
President Jacob has fired Bheki Cele as national police chief. (File, Sapa)

President Jacob has fired Bheki Cele as national police chief. (File, Sapa)

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Cape Town - Bheki Cele on Thursday became the third high-profile casualty of the police lease saga when he was fired by President Jacob Zuma.

Cele was sacked eight months after he was suspended by Zuma after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela laid the blame for the controversial police office lease deals at his door.

He rejected Madonsela's findings in two separate investigative reports, according to which he had identified the buildings to be leased as police headquarters in Durban and Pretoria, a City Press report said.

Both Madonsela and the board of inquiry into Cele's fitness to hold office could not find any evidence that Cele was corrupt or that he had had a corrupt relationship with businessman Roux Shabangu whose company, Roux Property Africa, was awarded the R1.68bn lease deals by the department of public works.

But Madonsela had found that Cele's involvement in the deals was "improper, unlawful, and amounted to maladministration".

Cele becomes the third top government official to be fired in connection with the lease debacle after Zuma fired former public works minister Geoff Doidge in 2010.

Zuma fired Doidge's replacement, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, a year later, replacing her with incumbent Thulas Nxesi in October.

Çity Press reported that a total of seven senior public works officials, including director general Siviwe Dongwana, are still on suspension in relation to the leases.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde instituted legal action against Shabangu to get the high court to nullify the lease before she was fired.

In court papers she blames Cele's department. The case is pending.

Outsider

Cele will be replaced Mangwashi Phiyega, the country's first woman police chief, who is a relative outsider to police circles.

She is currently the chair of the presidential review committee on state owned enterprises, and deputy chair of the independent commission on the remuneration of office bearers.

Phiyega has considerable management experience, she has been a trustee of Nelson Mandela's foundation and an executive at Barclays-owned banking group Absa.

"Ms Phiyega brings a wealth of experience as a senior executive, who understands the responsibility of government in the fight against crime, and the duties imposed in dealing with state assets," Zuma said.

"I have every confidence that she will show leadership and acquit herself well as national commissioner. We wish her all the best in her new assignment."

The appointment has, however, been questioned by opposition parties.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said Zuma's announcements (including a cabinet reshuffle) "reveals a president desperate to shore up support ahead of the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference.

"President Zuma has once again appointed a national police commissioner with no policing experience."

She said the party had hoped Zuma would have acted to restore public confidence in the SA Police Service by appointing someone with a demonstrated ability in crime fighting and police management.

Distrust

The African Christian Democratic Party welcomed Zuma's decision to release Cele from his duties.

"While commissioner Cele did an excellent job in leading the police in the fight against crime, which led to a decline in violent crimes, he was found wanting in matters of administration," party leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe said.

"The ACDP had hoped that his replacement would be a professional career policeman, who had experience in matters of policing, such as divisional commissioner [Nhlanhla] Mkhwanazi, who we believe did an excellent job."

The Congress of the People said Cele's dismissal was long-awaited, but the party was surprised by the new appointment, saying Phiyega lacked experience.

President Zuma has been criticiced for appointing politicians for the position before, said Johan Burger, an expert on policing and a former high ranking officer who is a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, told AP.

According to Burger, appointing politicians who are seen as knowing little about running a force leads to distrust and disrespect among police officers.

Read more on:    cope  |  police  |  public works  |  da  |  acdp  |  helen zille  |  roux shabangu  |  kenneth meshoe  |  riah phiyega  |  jacob zuma  |  gwen mahlangu-nkabinde  |  bheki cele  |  geoff doidge  |  thuli madonsela  |  police lease saga  |  politics
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