Cele inquiry told to consider Cabinet's views

Cabinet’s view on embattled police chief Bheki Cele’s conduct should be taken into account, the board of inquiry into his fitness to hold office heard on Tuesday.

Submitting closing arguments in the Tshwane council chambers, advocate Vincent Maleka—for Cele—said it was significant that “national Cabinet had not passed a vote of no confidence against General Cele”.

“We urge you to take that into account because it is relevant to the overall conduct of the commissioner.

“We would have thought that the overall conduct of the national commissioner would become more negative to him if Cabinet had expressed a negative view. Cabinet has instead expressed a positive view,” said Maleka.

He said the recommendation put forward on Monday by the evidence-leading team—advocating for Cele’s dismissal—was inappropriate.

“It’s not based on evidence; we ask you to make a different recommendation. The national commissioner has discharged his duties as outlined in the Constitution and the SAPS Act,” said Maleka.

Following in the protector’s footsteps
He urged the board to follow in the footsteps of public protector Thuli Madonsela, who had not found evidence of an improper relationship between Cele and businessman Roux Shabangu.

“Assuming that our learned friends [the evidence-leading team] manage to convince you that General Cele breached supply chain management processes, are you going to recommend that a DG [director general] who has discharged his duties should be removed from office simply because he failed to comply with provisions relating to the procurement of a building by the [department of public works]?” asked Maleka.

“We would submit that even if you find that General Cele did breach supply chain management processes, such a recommendation [for his dismissal] is far reaching.”

Relating the highly contentious alteration of office space at a meeting with Shabangu, Maleka argued that there was no evidence to prove collusion with the property owner.

“There was an approval of the negotiation process by [department] already.
In the process of working out the details, specifics around space requirement would change.

“If a gym was a necessary part required by police at the building, there was nothing wrong there,” said Maleka.

Procurement process
Earlier, Maleka submitted that former deputy police chief and head of procurement Hamilton Hlela had altered the procurement process.

He said it was Hlela who had motivated for the negotiated procurement process.

“He had no instruction to change the rules. We have referred the board to General Hlela’s meeting with the acting director general of the public works department,” said Maleka.

“In that meeting, he motivated for a shortened procurement process, which is the negotiated process. He did not discuss that with General Cele.” Maleka said his submission was critical as it touched on one of the board of inquiry’s terms of reference—to establish whether Cele failed to prevent his subordinates’ non-compliance with [SAPS] regulations.

“You can only fail to prevent something that you know. If you don’t know anything there is hardly an obligation to prevent,” said Maleka.

He said there was no evidence to support allegations that Cele had mismanaged funds as the accounting officer of the department.

“We hereby submit that the funds of SAPS were properly managed under the stewardship of General Cele and we avoid any unwarranted statements not based on evidence,” said Maleka.

Failing to provide evidence
On Monday, Maleka contested Hlela’s evidence alleging that Cele had identified a building in Pretoria owned by Shabangu.

Maleka said the evidence-leading team had failed to provide evidence to support its claim that Cele had breached the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

He said evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga had not told the inquiry which provisions of the PFMA that Cele had contravened.

He countered earlier claims by the evidence-leading team that Cele acted with a conflict of interest because he had a relationship with Shabangu.

Madlanga had said that apart from misconduct, the “gross breach of the Public Finance Management Act alone warranted the board to recommend Cele’s removal from office”.

The board of inquiry, appointed by President Jacob Zuma and chaired by Judge Jake Moloi, is mandated to establish whether Cele acted corruptly, dishonestly, or with an undeclared conflict of interest in relation to two police lease deals signed with Shabangu, one for a building in Pretoria, another for a building in Durban.

It also has to determine his fitness to hold office, and his capacity to efficiently execute his duties.—Sapa