Cele's swanky new house

2009-10-24 00:00

PRETORIA — The government is spending nearly R3,4 million on a house in an upmarket Pretoria suburb for the national police chief, Commissioner Bheki Cele.

According to sources, several less luxurious official residences were available in Silverton, but these were not to Cele’s liking.

The residence that did meet his “requirements” and “security needs” is in Waterkloof Ridge. It cost R2,9 million, but R3 374 092 has been approved to cover the transfer and legal fees.

Deputy Commissioner Hamilton Hlela wrote to the Public Works Department on September 7 requesting that the purchase be finalised with “urgency”.

The department is responsible for the accommodation of officials, but according to the letter, the South African Police Service will pay for the house.

Hlela said Cele is entitled to accommodation in his capacity as a “deployed official at national level”.

“Several attempts were made to procure an official residence, but they were unsuccessful. To rent is also not cost-efficient,” stated the letter, which is in the possession of Beeld.

Suitable properties for the department to buy on behalf of the police were identified.

Beeld learnt that the transaction was approved on October 7 and the money has already been made available.

An informed source said on Thursday that there are vacant official residences in Silverton.

“But he [Cele] doesn’t want to live there. He wants that place [in Waterkloof Ridge].”

Hlela on Thursday insisted that as far as he knows, no official residence was available.He said a house in Waterkloof Ridge in which Jackie Selebi lived is the private property of the former police chief.

The police accommodation policy puts no limit on the amount that can be spent. “All that the policy states is that accommodation should be provided to the national chief,” said Hlela.

Commissioner Nonkululeko Mbatha, Cele’s spokeswoman, didn’t want to comment. “I can’t believe it. How do you know where his house is?” she asked.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has found no fault with the five-star hotel expenses of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Taxpayers have shelled out R813 500 for him and his entourage to stay in two luxury hotels in Durban and Cape Town. He also spent R1,4 million on two official cars.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko said the cabinet discussed the matter on Wednesday. He said it was “the media who misunderstand and wrongly interpret the requirements in the ministerial handbook”.

The ministerial handbook places no limits on expenses during official trips in the execution of duties.

“The handbook states they can stay in any hotel. The ministers’ staff do the bookings and pay for it. It is not as if they handle it themselves. It is therefore clear that the ministers are keeping to the rules,” he said.

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