Raid on Protector’s office only a ‘visit’

The South African Police Service (SAPS) on Thursday said the reported “raid” on the Public Protector’s office on Wednesday was in fact an “unannounced visit” by two members of the counter-intelligence unit.

It’s believed the officers were searching for documents relating to the investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela into a R500-million lease agreement between businessman Roux Shabangu, the SAPS and the Department of Public Works.

Last week Madonsela issued a damning report that found the lease agreement — for the Sanlam Middestad Building in Pretoria — to be “fatally flawed”. Though she had not uncovered any evidence of a crime being committed, she asked that the Treasury investigate further, institute disciplinary hearings against officials responsible for the lease and, if possible, terminate the contract. She also found police National Commissioner Bheki Cele to be in breach of his duties as the chief accounting officer for SAPS, and found that his conduct had been “improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration”.

“Members of the counter intelligence unit went there unannounced and demanded the documents,” said police spokesperson McIntosh Polela. According to Polela, the officers did not get the documents they asked for and left instead with a list of documents that had been used in the Public Protector’s investigation.

Polela admitted the action was originally characterised as a “raid” by police themselves, following a statement released on Thursday morning, which spoke of “an act of alleged invasion of the office of the Public Protector by members from counter intelligence”.

Cele’s office has maintained that it was unaware of and had not sanctioned the action.

Polela said an investigation will be carried out to find out who sanctioned the unannounced visit and on what basis. “Management of SAPS is still concerned that in some quarters they are going to be seen as intimidating the office of the Public Protector,” he said.

The Public Protector’s office could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

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