In Cele's firing line

2012-06-14 00:00

SACKED top cop Bheki Cele went on the assault yesterday, pumping a magazine of verbal rounds into a judge, the public protector and a retired general.

While Cele avoided the word “conspiracy” and opted instead for “persecution”, he painted a picture of someone hard done by unnamed individuals who wanted him out of a job where he had proved his success as a crime fighter.

Cele played the victim card to the hilt at a press conference beamed live a day after President Jacob Zuma had officially announced he had fired him and appointed his successor, Riah Phiyega, as the first woman national police commissioner.

He also made clear that he had not been offered a golden handshake and would not accept one if offered.

Cele also reminded the nation that he had not been found guilty of corruption like his predecessor Jackie Selebi, or with his hands in the cookie jar as implied by some media and Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi.

“Unsuspecting readers of news reports would be forgiven for thinking that, like my predecessor, I was tried and found guilty of corruption. They would be forgiven for thinking that, like Richard Mdluli, I am accused of murder,” he complained.

On the poisoned chalice handed to Phiyega, he wished her well.

“She did not steal my job; she answered the same call I did three years ago.”

But he could not resist drawing attention to the fact that he was a “cop’s cop”, while she in turn was “highly competent and educated when it comes to administration”.

“The police service is less to do with administration and more with criminal work. It is about understanding about being in the trenches, being there for the men and women in blue.

“I did not manage to find criminals in my books, I found them in the trenches out there.”

Cele confirmed that he had in fact received Zuma’s letter sacking him on June 5, a full week before the president announced it.

And while he told reporters he would heed his own advice to Helen Zille and Archbishop Desmond Tutu after corruption charges against Zuma were dropped in 2009 to “shut up and go home”, he first had to have his say.

Cele was careful not to blame Zuma for his woes, choosing instead to turn Judge Jake Moloi into prime evil.

He spoke of his misplaced faith in the “integrity” of Judge Moloi, who headed the board of inquiry into his fitness to hold office and who produced a “scandalous” report.

Zuma’s action was as a result of Judge Moloi’s finding, he stressed.

Cele confirmed he would launch a judicial review application before the end of the week in the high court in Pretoria that “will lay bare the monumental errors of fact, logic and law” that littered the report.

He said someone must have prevailed on Moloi to ensure he returned a recommendation that he be fired “at whatever cost”.

The judicial review application was not about challenging the president’s decision, but Moloi’s findings.

“I blame [Judge Jake] Moloi,” Cele said. “That’s why I’m taking him on.” Cele questioned why Moloi was allegedly at a meeting with the evidence leaders in the inquiry and had tried to get them to add further charges to those being investigated. He said a ministerial representative was also present, although he declined to provide further details.

Cele also threatened to file a complaint against Judge Moloi with the Judicial Service Commission at the conclusion of the review process. He made it clear, too, that public protector Thuli Madonsela and retired general Hamilton Hlela, the former police supply chain management head, were not in his good books, while Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was persona non grata.

Yesterday, Moloi issued a statement noting Cele’s comments.

“We wish to state that the board will not involve itself in a public spat with anybody, including the former police commissioner.

“The board was properly constituted and it did its work transparently without fear or favour and the process was open to the public,” said Moloi.

Cele questioned, among other things, how Madonsela had arrived at a conclusion that he was to blame for the Public Works Department (PWD) failure to follow tender processes for procurement.

He also asked when Madonsela would be lining up the directors-general of every department that occupied buildings whose lease agreements were concluded by the PWD, “and similarly find them guilty of unlawful conduct and maladministration”.

Madonsela responded that she had nothing against Cele and had never said he should be fired.

“I looked at the SAPS report and found that Cele as an accounting officer had not played his oversight role as he was supposed to do,” she said.

In what will likely be grist for the mill for Cele, who is incensed that Judge Moloi gave more credence to Hlela’s evidence, Madonsela said she had not relied on Hlela for evidence because he was not “trustworthy”.

Hlela told The Witness yesterday he did not know why Cele and Madonsela were saying these things about him.

Mthethwa, who will introduce Phiyega at a press conference today, was unimpressed when reached for comment.

“I don’t comment on things I know nothing about as I was in meetings the whole day, and in future don’t call me, but phone Zweli Mnisi, my spokesperson.”

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