Why two buildings, one owner, Cele asked

2012-03-12 12:52

Suspended police commissioner Bheki Cele could not explain the coincidence that both buildings identified for police accommodation in Durban and Pretoria were owned by one man.

“I can’t explain the coincidence... the visits (by some SAPS officials) had taken place without me knowing,” Cele told the inquiry, sitting in Pretoria, into his conduct.

He was asked about the coincidence that property mogul Roux Shabangu owned both the Sanlam Middestad and Transnet buildings in Pretoria and Durban respectively.

When asked about the person who had to be held accountable when it came to compliance with tender processes, Cele said: “That would be me.”

He also agreed with the inquiry’s chairperson Jake Moloi that it appeared as though Shabangu knew in advance about the police’s accommodation needs, and that someone was keeping him informed.

Cele said he did not know the motive behind his former deputy and police procurement head Hamilton Hlela’s testimony that “a person” would call him to discuss new office space for police headquarters in Pretoria.

According to Hlela, the only person who called after that was Shabangu.

Cele’s re-examination began this morning with his attorney Vincent Maleka attempting to defend his job, following two Public Protector reports into the controversial lease deals worth R1.6 billion.

Cele previously insisted he relied on “experts” such as Hlela to advise him before signing any documents. This was after admitting he sometimes did not scrutinise documents presented to him and Hlela.

He said he lost trust in Hlela due to his questionable work ethic.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found the building leases had been concluded in an unlawful and improper way. Shabangu was challenging the matter in court.

Madonsela, whose report was being used as evidence at the hearing, was instrumental in President Jacob Zuma appointing the board of inquiry late last year.

The board, chaired by retired Free State judge Jake Moloi, was investigating whether Cele acted dishonestly and corruptly when he authorised the lease deals with Shabangu.

Last week, board members had to try more than once to elicit clear answers from Cele, accusing him of being evasive in answering questions.

“It leaves a terrible impression on this board,” Moloi last week.

Cele’s defence team made it clear he would deny any wrongdoing outright.

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