Sunday, May 27, 2012
How we nailed Cele
How we nailed Cele
STAFF REPORTERS | 27 May, 2012 00:16
Reporters were illegally bugged as they pursued the story
Top cops go blank on details
A TWO-PAGE document leaked to the Sunday Times in 2010 started it all.
The document suggested that national police commissioner General Bheki Cele wanted to move the SA Police Service head office into a building owned by businessman Roux Shabangu - without following proper procedure.
After the Sunday Times broke the story on August 1 2010, a blustering Cele called a press conference to deny any wrongdoing.
In typical cowboy style, the police boss, who is now facing the axe, called our reporters, who wrote the story, "shady".
Two days later, one of the authors of the original report, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, was arrested on spurious charges that were later withdrawn. He was held without bail, interrogated about his political leanings and denied access to his lawyers for several hours. It was reminiscent of the bad old days of detention without trial.
Wa Afrika has since filed a lawsuit for wrongful arrest and the matter is scheduled to go on trial in November. The Sunday Times has also filed a suit to claim costs relating to his unlawful arrest.
A day before Wa Afrika was detained, advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability, had lodged a complaint with the public protector asking her to probe Cele.
The dirty tricks intensified.
As our reporters continued investigating the police lease scandal, they became targets of smear campaigns, their movements were monitored and their cellphone communications intercepted.
The inspector-general of intelligence, Faith Radebe, has since confirmed that the Hawks bugged Wa Afrika's cellphone.
Later that year, two more cellphones, used by Wa Afrika and his colleague Stephan Hofstatter, were illegally bugged for about three months. This has been confirmed by police investigating the matter.
As a result, the head of crime intelligence in KwaZulu-Natal, Major-General Deena Moodley, has been suspended from his job.
But the pressure on Cele continued to mount. Shortly after our exposé in August 2010, former public works minister Geoff Doidge suspended the lease for the Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria - owned by Shabangu - based on a damning legal opinion by law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
President Jacob Zuma fired Doidge two months later and replaced him with Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde wasted no time reinstating the Pretoria lease, despite receiving two legal opinions in December 2010, telling her the agreement was unlawful
Separately, the Sunday Times exposed Shabangu again in another shady police lease tender, worth R1-billion, for the relocation of the provincial SAPS in Durban.
Following our report, that deal was stopped.
In February 2011, public protector Thuli Madonsela released her first report into the Middestad building lease, which found that Cele's conduct was "improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration".
Madonsela released her second report into both the Durban and Pretoria police lease deals, now calculated to be worth R1.7-billion, and found Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde guilty of improper conduct and maladministration for their roles in driving both deals in July 2011.
It took Zuma almost four months to act on Madonsela's report.
He fired Mahlangu-Nkabinde and suspended Cele in October.
A month later, Zuma appointed a board of inquiry to probe Cele's fitness to hold office. The inquiry started on March 5 and submitted its report last Sunday.
Cele-lies v The Board's findings:
■CELE: I do not know who identified that building.
■BOARD: The buildings were identified by the national commissioner personally. He favoured the buildings owned by Shabangu.
■CELE: The reports that I know the owner of the building [are] completely not true.
■BOARD: The national commissioner clearly knew Shabangu.
■CELE: The needs assessment by the SAPS was duly signed off by me. That is where my role as accounting officer for the SAPS ends.
■THE BOARD: Cele pushed for the entire building in both Pretoria and Durban to be leased by the SAPS, even when the needs analysis showed that a lesser amount of space was required.
■CELE: The Department of Public Works has issued a media statement that absolves me of any wrongdoing.
■BOARD: The conduct of all those involved in the deals in the DPW is sufficient evidence of corrupt activities taking place in it, indicative of the rot that has set in and the promotion of favoured parties to the detriment of the state.
■CELE: The police pushed the urgency of the matter. Yes, those two floors were urgent.
■BOARD: No urgency existed. The purported urgency was thus unjustified and was of their own making.
A blast from he past...........
From the Office of the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service
The Facts on the Lease Deal : “Putting Matters into Perspective”
Since 4 August 2010 there have been numerous media reports, rumours, speculation and in some cases even downright lies circulated about the lease deal involving the police national headquarters and the KZN provincial headquarters.
In order to ensure that all SAPS personnel members are aware of the facts – and can thus disassociate themselves from the fiction – Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha, Head of Corporate Communication, would like to advise all members and employees as follows:
“When the story was published it fingered the National Commissioner General Bheki Cele on something he did NOT do, misleading reports and malicious allegations suggested that General Cele signed a lease because of his improper or proper relationship with businessman Roux Shabangu. From the 4th of August 2010 to date, there has been a clear vendetta against General Cele and his administration in some media houses. A simple question is why? Is it about the firm grip against crime, that the prophets of doom are now worried about political point scoring on crime? Is about the overwhelming success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from the security point of view that got people worried and jealous? Is it another attempt to shift his focus from the core business of fighting crime? Are people secretly pushing propaganda for criminals or speaking on their behalf by attacking the man who is in the frontline of fighting crime? Different conclusions can be drawn on the issue of why? But the fact remains, in the mist of all, SAPS members must not be derailed or demoralized towards their fundamental mandate of serving and protecting fellow South Africans.
Last year, the Sunday Times newspaper published a story in which it alleged that National Police Commissioner, General Bheki Cele had signed a lease deal worth almost R2 billion for offices to accommodate SAPS staff and management. The Sunday Times alleged among others, that General Cele had signed the deal. It also alleged that there was friendship between General Cele and the owner of the buildings in Pretoria and Durban, Mr Roux Shabangu. Following this report,
Mr P J Groenewald MP of the Freedom Front Plus and ADV P Hoffman SC the
Director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa referred the matter
to the office of the Public Protector to investigate.
It is a fact that the SAPS indicated to the Department of Public Works
that there was a need for office space to accommodate members of the
SAPS and management in Pretoria and Durban. As a result, the Division: Supply
Chain Management within the
SAPS compiled needs assessments which were necessary for the procurement
of the required leases of buildings to go forward, and submitted to the
Department of Public Works
Earlier this year, Public Protector Ms Thuli Madonsela released a
report titled “Against the Rules”, and recently another report titled
“Against the Rules Too”. In both reports, Adv Madonsela found that the
leases were both unlawful and the conduct of the National Commissioner
amounted to maladministration. However,
contrary to media reports, the Public Protector did not find General
Cele guilty of any offense nor did she find him guilty of corruption. In fact, the
Public Protector found that the Department of Public Works signed the leases
with Roux Property Fund, a company owned by Mr Roux Shabangu.
The South African Police Service has no mandate to sign leases in terms of the
government procurement policies. Only the Department of Public Works is
tasked with a mandate to sign
lease agreements on behalf of government departments. As such, the
Sunday Times was wrong to say that General Cele signed the deal
himself. The Public Protector also pronounced that her investigation
could not find any evidence of friendship between General Cele and Mr
Shabangu, the owner of the building. However, the media has failed to trumpet these findings correctly. Instead, I'm sure many of you have read persistent newspaper reports and rumours suggesting that General Cele is going to be fired as a result of his role in the leasing saga. There is no truth in these reports. The reports by the Public Protector are now in the hands of President Jacob Zuma.
Until such time that the office of the President makes pronouncements on the reports, please be assured that the newspaper reports and rumours are baseless. As many of you know, General Cele is determined to carry out his mandate to lead the SAPS in the fight against crime, and making South Africa a safer place for its citizens”.