Stop being evasive, judge tells Cele

2012-03-08 13:59

Suspended police commissioner Bheki Cele came under fire at the inquiry into his fitness to hold office today when Judge Jake Moloi warned him not to be “evasive and argumentative” in his testimony.

Cele was cross-examined by state advocate Viwe Notshe who is leading evidence against the commissioner.

Cele’s failure to give clear answers to Notshe on whether he knew who had identified the Middestad building in Pretoria for police office space drew sharp criticism from Moloi who heads the board of inquiry in Pretoria.

“I warn you not to be so evasive and argumentative because your answers may leave a terrible impression,” said Moloi.

The judge demanded “clear” answers from Cele.

Cele’s evidence – that he did not know who had identified the Middestad building – has been disputed by his former deputy, retired general Hamilton Hlela, who testified that Cele had instructed him to award a lease for office space.

Cele is facing a grilling from the state which said it would prove that he is no longer fit for office and that he had a hand in the questionable awarding of the Durban and Pretoria building leases.

He admitted that when he approved the increase of the rental space from 21 000 to 25 000 square metres he did not ask how much this would cost the department.

As for the fact that a tender process was not followed in the procurement of the Middestad building, Cele reiterated that the majority of the police’s 1 300 leases never went out to tender.

“There were many many buildings which were negotiated,” said Cele, adding that the cost of renting the building was never an issue as the department of home affairs, for example, paid R33 million a year in rent.

However, Cele admitted that he had never asked whether the correct tender processes had been followed and that his authorisation of the tender “compromised” the tender process.

Cele conceded that more “scrutiny” should have been given to the lease agreement. “There are too many people I trusted in the SAPS ... and I still trust too many people,” said Cele with reference to Hlela.

Cele was questioned in detail about why he had trusted Hlela with the leases even though he testified earlier that the trust and relationship between them had waned six months prior to the lease deal.

The hearing has also exposed Cele, who admitted yesterday that he seldom read documents that were sent to him by his subordinates.

Cele and Hlela have accused each other of identifying the Middestad building. Both have rejected each other’s claims.

Cele said Hlela told him Middestad was “the best building in the city”.

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