Police chief faces suspension

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President Jacob Zuma is considering a response by national police commissioner General Bheki Cele as to why he should not be suspended pending the outcome of an inquiry into two lease agreements.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that two lease agreements involving businessman Roux Shabangu for office space in Pretoria and Durban were unlawful and improper. She held Cele and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde to blame.

Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj said Zuma issued the notice on August 29. “In terms of this notice, the president informed the national commissioner that he intends to institute an inquiry into allegations of misconduct in relation to the procurement of both leases as per the findings of the public protector,” Maharaj said. “The national commissioner was afforded an opportunity to make representations as to why the president should not suspend him pending the outcome of the inquiry.”

Maharaj said the notice was in terms of section 9(1) of the South African Police Act, 68 of 1995 as amended. Section 9(1) read with section 8(1) to (8) empowered the President to establish a board of inquiry to enquire into allegations of misconduct against the National Commissioner and make findings and recommendations as contemplated in section8(6)(b).

He said Cele had since comprehensively responded to Zuma’s notice, and the president was considering Cele’s representations. “The national commissioner is cooperating fully with the president in this process,” said Maharaj in a statement. “The president is currently in discussion with … Cele, in relation to the matters affecting him in the two reports,” he said.

Most of the matters Zuma was working on could not be discussed in full without prejudicing the parties affected. “He will continue to follow due process to ensure that the matters are disposed of using correct procedures,” Maharaj said.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper reports Zuma’s may have misinterpreted the Police Act. Section 8 gives the president the power to establish a board of inquiry only “if the national commissioner has lost the confidence of the Cabinet”, giving Cele the opportunity to argue that there was no evidence to support this conclusion, the paper says.

Cele has blamed supply chain management officials for a leasing debacle that saw the government agree to rent buildings in Pretoria and Durban at about three times the going rate, some R500 million for a five year lease on a building in Pretoria and R1.1 billion for a building in Durban.

Democratic Alliance police shadow Dianne Kohler Barnard said she saw no point in “another investigation into a matter that has already been thoroughly investigated by the public protector.

An inquiry has already been done – and the commissioner has committed an unlawful act, according to Madonsela. What the president is saying is that he doubts the authenticity of the public protector’s findings,” she said. She said it was “outrageous to even suggest” that Cele remain in his post, pending a possible inquiry.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde on Tuesday filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to have the contracts declared null and void.