National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele is spoiling for a fight.
“Some people are going out of this organisation, but it is not me,” the top cop told City Press this week, saying he was determined to root out corruption in the police.
His comments came amid allegations of his involvement in dodgy property deals that would see the SAPS national and provincial headquarters in Pretoria and Durban relocated at a cost of R760 million.
Last month The Sunday Times reported that Cele had signed a R500-million lease agreement for a Pretoria building owned by millionaire businessman Roux Shabangu.
Cele has denied knowing Shabangu and says he signed a “needs assessment” and not a “lease”.
Cele has also been accused of lying to Parliament about the sudden departure of three senior generals who led the police’s supply chain management division – Hamilton Hlela, Matthews Siwundla and Stefanus Terblanche.
Last week Cele and other senior police generals told Parliament the three officers had been implicated in widespread irregularities and mismanagement which had crippled the supply chain division.
Terblanche claimed in response that they were singled out by Cele because they opposed his plan to rent buildings in Pretoria and Durban. He denied any wrongdoing.
“There is an understanding that things are wrong in the SAPS,” Cele said on Friday. “We try to put them right and somebody shoots at you consistently.
“Only Parliament can say to us, you came here and you lied. Nobody else has that authority. It doesn’t help much if somebody says, ‘you lied’ and you say ‘I didn’t lie’. Parliament must decide.”
This week the chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on policing, Cindy Chikunga, told the SABC that the committee would not be investigating the accusations. “We had no reason to disbelieve what the national commissioner explained to us.”
Lieutenant-General Gary Kruser, who was recently appointed by Cele to replace Hlela as acting head of supply chain management, said he was confident that investigations would “show, on the facts of the matter, who is telling the truth”.
Last month President Jacob Zuma signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit to conduct an investigation into the police procurement division.
Cele said he was “appalled” at the extent of the rot.
Among the dodgy deals which have been uncovered was a contract for the supply of police uniforms.
It was awarded to a KwaZulu-Natal company apparently without Cele’s knowledge. The contract runs until 2013.
Said Kruser: “The quality of the material for this weather and climate is not right.”
In another instance, seven water cannons were purchased for a staggering R47 million, even though they were not needed.
Cele claimed that shortly after his appointment, Hlela, the then head of supply chain management, asked him (Cele) to sign off on the purchase of 2 500 vehicles.
This was despite several complaints from provincial police commissioners about the quality of the models.
Cele said he later discovered that “one of the daughters of a senior official at supply chain management was working for a car manufacturer and was receiving awards for being the best salesperson.
“If you sell 2 000 cars, I guess you must get awards,” he said.
Cele said he was also horrified to discover that a lease for police headquarters at Wachthuis in Pretoria was extended for 10 years on July 28 last year, a day before Zuma announced that Cele would be taking over at the helm of the police.
“It was just too close for comfort,” Cele said. “You can make your deductions from there.”
The rental of the building was also increased, from R1.4 million to R3.3 million, Kruser said.
According to Kruser, the lease was signed by the department of public works without the consent of the police.
Cele said he was heartened by the crime statistics released this week, which showed marked decreases in serious and violent crime.
“That was my big reward. I slept really well. We worked really hard to get those stats. I know we have a long way to go.
It will take some time to attune the organisation into a Porsche engine, but it will be a Porsche one day.”
Police throughout the country are set to undergo retraining exercises intended to improve discipline, fitness, firearms handling and “customer service skills”.