Bheki Cele named SA's new police chief

Bheki Cele has been appointed South Africa’s new police boss. He replaces embattled former police national commissioner Jackie Selebi, whose contract expires on Friday.

Cele, KwaZulu-Natal minister for community safety and who is known for his no-nonsense approach to crime, was announced as police national commissioner by President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday afternoon.

Cele will step into Jackie Selebi’s shoes in August.

“We pledge that over the next five years the criminal justice system will be overhauled and that crime levels will be reduced. The filling of a key position within the SAPS [South African Police Service] is a key factor towards the achievement of this goal,” Zuma told a media briefing in Pretoria.

Cele had “distinguished himself in a number of areas, including finding solutions to taxi conflicts in the province ...
successful anti-crime campaigns as well as improving road safety on provincial roads and highways”, Zuma said.

“We have no doubt that Mr Cele will lead the South African Police Service efficiently and effectively.”

Selebi was placed on special leave last year pending his court case on alleged corrupt activities and defeating the ends of justice.

This was after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it would lay charges against him for allegedly receiving corrupt payments totalling R1,2-million from his friend, Glenn Agliotti, a convicted drug smuggler accused of playing a role in the 2005 murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble.

Announcing that Selebi was going on leave, then president Thabo Mbeki said: “I must say that he himself was of the view that it should happen, so that whatever might happen in the courts about him he ought not to be sitting at police headquarters.”

Mbeki appointed Timothy Williams, deputy national commissioner responsible for crime intelligence, to act in Selebi’s place.

Even though Selebi was no longer at work, last year his contract was renewed by Mbeki for another 12 months.

Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros, divisional commissioner Raymond Lalla and acting deputy commissioner Andre Pruis were among the names rumoured to be in the running for commissioner.

The investigation into Selebi dates back to 2006 and was reported to Mbeki later in the year by then head of the NPA Vusi Pikoli.

It has since emerged that Mbeki had asked for two weeks to prepare the country before the intention to lay charges was made public.

In September 2007 the NPA confirmed it had been investigating Selebi for crimes including money laundering and drug dealing.

The following month it said it had obtained arrest and search warrants for him. However, it declined to act on them pending a review, with which Selebi said he would cooperate.

In January 2008 the authority said Selebi should be charged and a day later Mbeki placed Selebi on special leave.

Selebi has made a number of appearances in court, however, proceedings have repeatedly been stalled.

Selebi made his first court appearance in February 2008 by agreement and without arrest, and his actual trial had been delayed by various applications and counter-applications relating to the investigation against him.

His trial was supposed to have started in April this year, but at his last court appearance in Johannesburg in May, he was angered by the delays.

“Let the people have the courage to put the allegations they have to me in an open court of law—that’s why I’m angry,” he said at the time.

His trial is expected to begin in the High Court in Johannesburg on October 5.

Selebi’s reputation has come under scrutiny as far back as 1999 when he was reported to the Independent Complaints Directorate for calling a policewoman a “bladie voken chimpanzee” (bloody fucking chimpanzee).

He also came under fire in Parliament in 2007 over inadequate control of firearms and problems with police vehicles. This was after the Auditor General’s report showed the number of stolen and lost firearms had tripled.

Selebi was appointed commissioner of police by Mbeki in January 2000. He was serving as foreign affairs director general at the time.