Axed Cele thanks South Africans

2012-06-12 14:30

Axed police commissioner General Bheki Cele has thanked South Africans for their support while he was leading the country’s police force.

In a statement released just before President Jacob Zuma made the announcement that he would be relieved of his duties this afternoon, Cele said he “wishes to take this opportunity to thank South Africans across both the racial and class divides for the support and assistance they lent to his efforts to turn the South African Police Service into an effective and respected crime-fighting machine”.

Cele, who will address the media at a press conference tomorrow morning, also thanked police officers for their hard work in ensuring a safer South Africa.

He will be replaced by Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega, deputy chairperson of the Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, Zuma announced.

The president’s decision comes eight months after he suspended Cele after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela laid the blame for the controversial police office lease deals at his door.

Cele 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.

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 R1.68 billion lease deals by the Department of Public Works.

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.

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

A total of seven senior public works officials, including director-general Siviwe Dongwana, are still on suspension in relation to the leases.

A month before Mahlangu-Nkabinde was fired she instituted legal action against Shabangu to get the high court to nullify the lease. The case is pending.

In court papers Mahlangu-Nkabinde blames Cele’s department.

Meanwhile the SAPS has set aside R600 million to pay Shabangu should he win his court case.

Cele, who told City Press in an interview a month ago that he wanted his job back, is expected to challenge the outcome of the hearing which recommended that he be fired.

He is however, not seeking to return to his job but instead will attempt to clear his name in court by getting the court to declare the report unlawful.

During the three-week hearing Cele made startling admissions including that he didn’t always peruse all documents before reading them and blamed his subordinates for the lease mess.

He blamed his former deputy, Hamilton Hlela, who was the state’s main witness against Cele in the hearing, for identifying the buildings belonging to Shabangu.

But the board, led by retired judge Jake Moloi, threw out Cele’s arguments.

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