Tension between national police commissioner General Bheki Cele and his head of crime intelligence, Richard Mdluli, is “sky high” after this week’s visit by two police spies to the Public Protector’s office.
City Press was reliably told that Cele was livid when he found out about the “unannounced visit” to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Pretoria office on Wednesday.
South African Police Service (SAPS) management yesterday suspended the two counter-intelligence officers, who have since been identified as Lieutenant-Colonel Maluleka and Captain Nkuta.
Madonsela’s spokesperson, Kgalalelo Masibi, said the two officers told her they were following the instructions of a Colonel Heine.
An inside source told City Press that tension between Cele and Mdluli had been simmering for a while, with Mdluli being seen by Cele and his supporters as the last senior official left in the police from the Jackie Selebi era.
Mdluli was promoted from deputy head of Gauteng police to head of national crime intelligence on July 1 2009 by acting police boss Tim Williams, a staunch Selebi man.
A month later President Jacob Zuma appointed Cele. Shortly thereafter Williams retired from the police.
According to the source, the visit to Madonsela’s office to get hold of documents used for her report on a R500-million building lease agreement formed part of an investigation by crime intelligence into alleged leaks from the office of the Public Protector.
It is not clear whether Cele initiated or was aware of the probe, but the source was adamant the police boss did not know about or order the visit to Madonsela’s office.
Some crime intelligence officers speculated that this was “payback” time for Mdluli, who was unhappy with Cele’s leadership and, according to the source, might have wanted to embarrass the police boss.
Police spokesperson McIntosh Polela, who called the visit “illegal”, said he was not prepared to respond to “rumours”.
He said he was unaware of tension between Mdluli and Cele and called the allegations “ridiculous”.
“I am not prepared to comment on an ongoing investigation (into the visit). We will wait for the outcome to be finalised,” Polela said.
Madonsela accepted an apology from Cele after the visit and Masibi said she was awaiting the outcome of the internal police investigation.
“We want to hear from them why they were here,” Masibi said. Madonsela was pleased with the police investigation into the matter.
“She has written to Cele as well and wants an explanation or clarity on the incident and on why those two police officers came here. She is concerned that she was not notified in advance about the visit.”
The incident sparked a huge national outcry and was condemned by Cosatu, opposition parties and civil society organisations.
The Social Justice Coalition on Friday launched a petition demanding a full, independent and transparent investigation into police misconduct, overseen by the Independent Complaints Directorate.
The coalition asked that appropriate action be taken should any instances of unlawful behaviour be uncovered.
Although he has denied involvement in the incident, calls have also been made for Cele to be axed.
Police minister Nathi Mthethwa on Friday asked Cele for a full report on the internal police investigation.
Yesterday Polela said the two officers would remain suspended until the investigation was finalised.