Police commissioner Khehla Sitole has ruffled feathers in the ministry’s upper echelons by instructing senior staff to stop referring to Police Minister Bheki Cele as “Minister General”.
City Press has seen Sitole’s directive, which was sent on Wednesday to his six deputies as well as all the national, provincial and regional police commissioners.
“In order to promote consistency within the South African Police Service (Saps) and without undermining any higher authority, the service takes a cue from the decision made in Parliament and desists from using the title ‘Minister General’,” the document reads.
“In terms of the dictates of government protocol, the minister of police ought to be addressed as Honourable Minister.”
A source in the security cluster said there was a huge storm this week when Cele demanded to be addressed as General.
“General Sitole told us it’s illegal,” the source said.
“Police officers are also asking how the president – who is said to be campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket – could appoint a man who was sacked as police commissioner after a judicial inquiry found him unfit to occupy his position.”
City Press has learnt that senior officers who testified against Cele during an inquiry into his fitness to hold office were concerned about their future in the police service.
The board of inquiry was established in 2012 to determine whether Cele acted corruptly or with an undeclared conflict of interest when he unlawfully entered into negotiations to lease two buildings from businessman Roux Shabangu.
Lieutenant General Stephan Schutte, who was Saps’ chief financial officer at the time of the probe, said Cele never consulted him about whether funding was available for the buildings.
He argued that this was outside Saps’ normal procurement process. According to Schutte, funding was usually sourced before approval was sought from Cele.
Another source in the police service said a senior officer who had a disagreement with Cele when he was a commissioner was worried about having his career stalled.
“Lieutenant General Sitole is also not sure he will finish his term,” the source said.
Sitole’s directive come as several senior police officers who were promoted by former police minister Fikile Mbalula expressed concern about how much time they had left in their new positions.
Many said they were worried that Cele would reverse some of his predecessor’s decisions, while some said they were already being sidelined.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo refused to comment and directed our inquiry to the police ministry.
Nonkululeko Phokane, the police minister’s spokesperson, denied the allegations and said Cele only met senior police officers during his welcome parade on Friday.