Cele suspension a “rumour”: Maharaj


The Presidency was “not aware” of plans to suspend national police commissioner General Bheki Cele. “I am not aware of any letter that is in preparation [for Cele’s suspension]. The reports are based on rumours,” said Mac Maharaj.

He said the report, which claimed Cele’s suspension was imminent, could “contribute to instability in police management”. He was responding to a report in the Sunday Times that President Jacob Zuma was expected to sign Cele’s letter of suspension this week on his return from the United States. Maharaj said a quote by him relating to Cele’s suggested suspension in the newspaper was “taken out of context”.

The newspaper said: “This has the potential for causing some uncertainty in the police force, and that’s not good (in the fight against crime).”

The Democratic Alliance said if claims that the suspension were true, it was “a step in the right direction”. “But we are mindful that Cele has emerged as a political opponent of the President in the run-up [to the ANC elective conference in Mangaung],” said Parliamentary leader Athol Trollip in a statement on Sunday. He said the motive behind the rumoured suspension should be scrutinised to ensure it was for the right reasons.
“There is a simple way of telling whether this suspension is because of a new-found committment to political accountability, or whether it amounts to selectively purging a political opponent,” Trollip said. “If President Zuma takes the same action against Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, then we might be convinced that his motives in suspending Cele are sound.”

The Congress of the People (Cope) said it was for the suspension and called on Zuma to act on it immediately. “We cannot move forward as a country with a police commissioner who is involved in criminal and corrupt activities,” its leader Mosiuoa Lekota said in a statement. Cele’s spokeswoman Nonkululeko Mbatha was not immediately available for comment.

Madonsela’s first report, released in February, centred on her investigation into the Sanlam-Middestad building in Pretoria, leased for R500 million. Her second report examined the R1.1 billion agreement to lease Transnet Tower in Durban. She found that the lease deal, signed with businessman Roux Shabangu, was concluded in an unlawful and improper way and that Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde be held responsible. Madonsela called on Zuma to take action against them.

Last week, Maharaj said Zuma took the report seriously, which was why he had decided not to make a “hasty or haphazard” decision.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde has filed papers in the High Court in Pretoria in a bid to have the contracts declared null and void. She said the lease deal for police office space were entered into before her appointment as minister. The hearing date has yet to be set.