Bheki Cele's full response

2012-05-25 00:00

WITNESS: What is the General’s reaction to the board’s finding that he should be sacked.

MKHIZE: This report is nothing but a crude hatchet job designed to dupe the president into believing that there is justifiable cause to rob SA of the services of the best police commissioner the country has ever had.

This should not be read as an attack on the judiciary seeing that the Board that compiled the report was headed by a judge. Instead, it is the report itself that should be viewed as an assault on the very ethical foundation upon which the august institution that is the judiciary is built.

The report stands as a monument to a disgraceful failure to treat the responsibility of advising the highest office in the land with the respect and seriousness it deserves. The report reflects a selective consideration as well as gross misrepresentation of the evidence that was placed before the Board.

A striking feature of the report is that virtually each finding made against General Cele lacks a logical explanation between the conduct or acts performed by members of SAPS, which constituted a violation of the supply chain management policies of SAPS, and the lack of knowledge of that conduct by General Cele. The following instances exemplify the point:

By all accounts, General Hamilton Hlela initiated the procurement process relating to the Sanlam Middestad Building, in his capacity as the head of Supply Chain Management of SAPS. He interacted with the landlord, made presentations to the Department of Public Works, motivated a departure from a tender process, all without the knowledge or approval of General Cele. He conceded all of these breaches of supply chain management processes of SAPS in the course of cross-examination.

Surprisingly, the Board attributes the above and other violations of the supply chain management of SAPS to the General Cele, without explaining the basis for such a conclusion. The attribution is remarkable, to say the least, when it is measured against the admitted fact that General Cele acts on the strength of recommendations or advice by experts such as General Hlela.

WITNESS: In particular Judge Moloi is very critical about General Cele’s “lack of appreciating his unlawful conduct despite overwhelming evidence” and his inability to execute his “official duties efficiently” and that he “grossly misconducted himself with regard to the procurement of the Sanlam Middestad and Transnet buildings.

MKHIZE: One of the many material errors of fact committed by the Board is in relation to its finding that the National Commissioner has insisted on his innocence and this demonstrates, according to the Board, that he failed to appreciate the nature and the importance of the responsibilities which attach to his office. This forms the basis of the Board’s finding that the National Commissioner lacks an appreciation of his unlawful conduct and therefore is not fit to hold office and is unable to executive his official duties.

The above conclusion arrived at by the Board is in clear contrast of the Board’s evaluation of the evidence in which the Board that the National Commissioner conceded before the Public Protector and during the inquiry that the method chosen during the procurement of the leases and which he sanctioned compromised the procurement process.

WITNESS: The board of inquiry found that Gen Cele lacked the capacity to execute official duties as an accounting officer in line with a raft of legislation -- including the Public Finance Management Act.

MKHIZEL The CFO of the SAPS, General Schutte, the only PFMA expert who testified before the Board, dealt with all of the issues described in the Board’s terms of reference in respect of the PFMA. General Schutte’s testimony clearly recorded that none of the transgressions that are prohibited by the PFMA occurred in relation to these two leases. It is remarkable that the Board only dealt with General Schutte’s evidence in only one of the 192 paragraphs that make up its report and does not deal at all, or comment, on the evidence of Mr Schutte on each of those terms of reference.

WITNESS: The report is scathing about of General Cele’s reliance on so-called “experts”, the very people in the Supply Chain Management chain whom the SIU was investigating at his behest.

MKHIZE: The Board’s finding that General Cele unashamedly declared that he appended his signature to financial documents placed before him without question and blindly relied on the experts within the SAPS is one of the many errors that constitute the bulk of its report. This finding is at odds with the qualification he made during his testimony that, barring obvious omissions and commissions, he would rely on the information placed before him by the relevant experts. In this sense, he did not blindly follow the experts.

WITNESS: While, like the public protector, the inquiry found there was no corruption on the part of Cele, it makes clear that this was based on the available evidence. However, a cloud remains over General Cele’s head.

Judge Moloi states that on account of the board of inquiry’s lack of powers to subpoena witnesses or conduct search and seizure, the relationship between the General and Shabangu, as well as between the General and some members of the SAPS could not be explored or enquired into “hence no finding of corrupt activities could be made”. He recommends that these relationships be referred to competent authorities for further investigation – raising the spectre that the general may still be subject to a criminal investigation.

MKHIZE: Before the board commenced its work, it petitioned President Zuma to amend its terms of reference to include a catalogue of administrative decisions taken by General Cele during his tenure. The President, rightly so, turned down this request to turn the work of the Board into a wild fishing expedition aimed at seeking to find some or other transgression to nail General Cele on at whatever cost. The board’s lament about not having the full powers it required to prove its unwarranted and defamatory charge of corruption against General Cele raises several questions. Why, did it not raise this issue with President Zuma when it tabled its cynical request for an amendment of its terms of reference midway through its mandate?

The decision to refer this matter for further investigation is nothing but a cynical ploy to ensure that its primary objective that has characterised its conduct of this inquiry – impugning General Cele’s integrity without putting up any justifiable basis for doing so – is perpetuated beyond the lifespan of the inquiry.

WITNESS: Other findings include that Gen Cele was “dishonest” in denying knowing Shabangu and having dealings with him and that ultimately he acted with an undeclared conflict of interest.

He also found that the there was a “questionable relationship” between General Cele and Roux Shabangu, as well as between the national commissioner and some members of the SAPS – which from the reading of the report, appears to include KZN provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Mmamonnye Ngobeni, as well as Lt-Gen Mngwenya.

MKHIZE: One of the numerous factual errors made by the Board in its report is the conclusion that General Hlela's testimony that General Cele informed him on 24 March 2010 that someone would call without giving the name of such a person is an undisputed fact. The reality is that General Cele disputed Hlela's testimony in this regard. The findings of dishonesty, conflict of interest and grave misconduct against General Cele are all based on this alleged communication.

A further disturbing conclusion by the Board is that General Cele had “a questionable relationship” with Mr Shabangu. In the usual way, the Board does not indicate the factual basis for the finding, or display a logical process of reasoning, to justify the conclusion. Dramatically the finding is at odds with the evidence placed before the Board. All of the witnesses called by the prosecution team did not testify at all on this issue, and disavowed any knowledge of a relationship between General Cele and Mr Shabangu. Even in argument, the prosecution team, conceded that there was no evidence to show a relationship, let alone a questionable one, between General Cele and Mr Shabangu. How then did the Board arrive at such absurd finding?

The Board commits another monumental blunder by stating as fact its own fabrication that Lieutenant General Ngobeni was promoted and appointed by the National Commissioner. Lieutenant General Ngobeni in fact underwent an interview before a panel of senior members of the SAPS and the MEC for Public Safety: KwaZulu Natal. Her letter of promotion was signed by the MEC. The record which proves this fact is with the Human Resources Department of the SAPS. Remarkably, Lieutenant General Ngobeni was not confronted with this claim by the Board.

WITNESS: There is also a suggestion that Mngwenya was promoted and appointed by Gen Cele, without due process and had that she had every reason to try and protect him

MKHIZE: Contrary to the insinuation of impropriety that the Board seeks to attach to the appointment of Lt-General Mngwenya, General Cele’s decision to appoint her without following standard recruitment procedures fell squarely within what is permissible by law.

WITNESS: The report also makes clear that those who raised alarms bells were sidelined from the procurement process. (See p91 para 150) and appears to accept Gen Hlela’s version of events despite the General’s denials.

MKHIZE: This is one of several instances where the Board cynically chooses to disregard ‘inconvenient’ evidence put before it. General Cele made it abundantly clear in his testimony before the Board that he only reacted to the aspect of Ms Nel’s email that amounted to an interference with his legislated powers to decide on how best to deploy units of the SAPS. General Cele repeatedly pointed out that the rest of the concerns raised in Ms Nel’s email were for the DPW DG’s (her ultimate boss) attention, not his. Ms Nel, in her testimony before the Board, made it abundantly clear she had no way of knowing if Mr Kenneth Khanyile’s (her immediate boss at DPW who was not called to appear before the Board) claim that General Cele had requested that she be removed from the SAPS accommodation portfolio. At any rate, in his own testimony, General Cele has pointed out that he did, and had no authority, to order the redeployment of an official from any department other than the SAPS.

WITNESS: As we understand it, the presidency’s legal team believes he should be given a chance to respond, before the president acts on the recommendations.

Has Gen Cele done so?

MKHIZE: I am not at liberty to comment on this aspect.

WITNESS: If so, what is his response to the substance of the report?

MKHIZE: I am not at liberty to comment on this aspect.

WITNESS: Given that the writing is clearly on the wall, is Gen Cele considering legal action should President Zuma fire him? Would he consider a judicial review?

If not, what does Gen Cele plan to do?

MKHIZE: General Cele is exploring all available avenues to challenge the validity of the report, including making a review application to the high court. At this stage, all of General Cele’s attention is focused on mounting a challenge to this patently flawed report.

WITNESS: We note from reports on the ANC’s KZN provincial conference, that the General remains popular in the province. Would he consider returning to politics, or does he believe that the findings will damage any future political comeback he would wish to make?

MKHIZE: General Cele is certain that the South African public will not formulate any negative impression of his person on the basis of a report that is replete with so many factual errors.

He is on record saying that the question of his deployment lies exclusively in the hands of the organization he has served with dedication and discipline all his adult life – the ANC

WITNESS: Any other comments that Gen Cele would like to make would be appreciated.


Examples of even more of the litany of errors that constitute this report are:

a) the Board’s finding that on 10 May 2010 General Cele signed a memorandum authorizing the procurement of Sanlam Middestad Building for lease purposes without enquiring whether a tender process had been or was to be followed. In this respect the Board ignored the material provision of the same memorandum in which Hlela himself gives the unequivocally assurance that an open tender process would be followed, even if it is a shortened tender process given the urgent need for accommodation.

This is despite the fact that it is Hlela himself who testified before the Board that he was responsible for not following the tender process in line with the contents of the memorandum. This he did without even informing General Cele. Yet the Board found that it was General Cele who failed to observe the relevant procurement processes and this forms the basis of the Board’s conclusion that General Cele is unfit to hold office and unable to execute his official duties efficiently.

b) The Board’ conclusion that Mr Shabangu manipulated General Cele to conclude the lease, and that General Cele was “pliant” and “played along” in that regard. Again the factual basis of this conclusion is not explained. The logic of it is equally not explained. First, there is no evidence at all that General Cele ever communicated with Mr Shabangu about the negotiation of the lease. There was also no evidence that there was a secret, surreptitious or undisclosed meeting between General Cele and Mr Shabangu concerning the lease.

General Cele's uncontroverted evidence is that he met Mr Shabangu for the first time at the presentation meeting of 5 July 2010 in the presence of the experts from both SAPS and Roux Property Fund, including structural engineers. By that time, the Department of Public Works National Bid Adjudication Committee had already authorised the conclusion of the lease, and the meeting was about the finalization of the requirements of SAPS, including the location of the gym.

c) The fact that the Board appears to have accepted the evidence of Hlela without any critical assessment of its probability (and reliability of his version) in the same way the Board critically approached the evidence of witnesses who testified on behalf of General Cele.

Hlela’s made critical concessions during his testimony on how he, personally, initiated the procurement process; how he met Mr Shabangu and arranged a presentation on his own; how he approached the acting Director General of DPW to motivate a single-supplier procurement process in favour of Roux Property Fund - all of which were done “without the knowledge” of General Cele.

Despite the fact that the board did not extract similar concessions of improper conduct from Generals Cele, Molefe and Mngwenya and Ngobeni (the latter two who were its own witnesses), it still proceeds, absurdly and irrationally so, to hold the discredited Hlela as the more reliable witness above all the four Generals.

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