Cele vows 'to go home' but not without a fight
Erstwhile national police commissioner Bheki Cele has lashed out against justice Jake Moloi, who he accused of abandoning his oath of judicial office and being part of a “cynical plot” to unjustly tarnish his reputation and hound him out of his job.
Moloi led the board of inquiry – convened by President Jacob Zuma – to investigate allegations of improper and unlawful conduct in the conclusion of two leasing deals signed with businessman Roux Shabangu.
Speaking at a media briefing hosted by the National Press Club in Pretoria on Wednesday – less than a day after he was dismissed – Cele revealed that he planned to file papers in the North Gauteng High Court later this week to challenge the findings of the inquiry, which was used as a basis for his dismissal.
If he is successful this would prove that his dismissal was invalid and unlawful. However, Cele did not say whether he would try to regain his position as national police commissioner.
Cele, who arrived wearing an eye-popping purple striped tie and his trademark fedora, said his application would highlight the “monumental errors of fact, logic and law” in Moloi’s report. It would also deal with the inquiry’s recommendation that a criminal investigation be opened against him.
“Even if it is going to totally bankrupt me, I am going to throw everything into exposing the gross abuse of due process that was the Moloi board of inquiry,” he said.
Although he stopped short of using the word “conspiracy”, Cele said Moloi was part of a quest to persecute him.
“Someone must have prevailed upon justice Jake Moloi to make sure that he returns a recommendation that I be fired, at whatever cost.
I have every intention of filing a complaint against justice Moloi with the Judicial Services Commission at the conclusion of the review process I will be launching before the end of this week,” he added.
Cele said that he had originally welcomed Zuma’s decision to set up a judge-headed board of inquiry to investigate the allegations previously investigated by public protector Thuli Madonsela.
“Little did I know how misplaced my faith was in the integrity of justice Jake Moloi,” he said, adding that he had felt “humiliated and abused” during the inquiry and that Moloi had been hostile towards him.
Cele claimed that he had a copy of the minutes of a meeting, which showed that Moloi had sat down with the prosecutors involved in the judicial inquiry and tried to get them to add further charges to those being investigated and that a ministerial representative had also been present in the meeting. He declined to name the minister or the department.
Although he would not be drawn on the possible motives for his ousting and dodged questions about those behind the alleged plot, Cele cast the blame for his sacking on a wide array of people including “individuals who would have counted on the corrupt loyalty of agents of the defeated apartheid regime, sections of the media and a few opposition politicians”.
Cele said it was hard to fathom how he was deemed to be unfit to serve as national police commissioner even though the president, when announcing his dismissal, had said that his performance in the area of crime-fighting had exceeded all expectations and had rewritten the country’s crime-fighting records.
“Does this mean that the president considers the supply chain management function, that is headed by a specialist at a level of a deputy director general in the SAPS, to be so critical to the duties of the national police commissioner that it can be put up as a valid reason for firing a highly successful national police commissioner?” he asked.
He also complained that Madonsela’s adverse finding against him – that as an accounting officer of the SAPS, he had failed in his oversight of the conclusion of the contested lease agreements with Shabangu – had been “milked for all that it is worth and then deliberately and fraudulently distorted to make a case of corruption against [him]” and lay the blame for the leasing scandal on the department of public works.
Despite questions and allegations – and the revelation of an impending court battle – Cele said “Today, I am officially shutting up and I am going home.”
Return to politics
He said that for the time being he planned to go back home to KwaZulu-Natal but did not rule out a return to politics. “I was taken from active political life and would not be surprised if I go back to the active political life,” he said with a smile.
He said that despite his sacking, his relationship with the president – which goes back 25 years – is “excellent”.
Although Zuma had implied in his speech on Tuesday that Cele was not done with public service, Cele said he had not received any job offers as yet. He also vehemently denied rumours of a golden handshake.
“Nobody has offered me any golden handshake and I’m not looking forward to a golden handshake,” he said.
“I will miss the police as an organisation. I believe the organisation will miss this ‘maverick’ Cele,” he said.
‘Shoot to kill’
Asked about his relationship with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Cele said: “I have nothing to say. Absolutely nothing.”
Cele said he and Mthethwa had not seen each other or spoken in months but minutes later he backtracked, saying that their relationship in the past had been “wonderful”.
As a parting shot to police officers, he defended his stance on the controversial “shoot to kill” policy. He pointed out that the Criminal Procedure Act, which gives effect to the policy, existed before he became national police commissioner and still remains.
“Don’t allow your detractors to return you to the days when your death was seen to be less of a tragedy when viewed against the death of criminals,” he said.
Asked if he would have done anything differently, he said that perhaps he would not have signed the lease deals in Pretoria and Durban.
Cele has been replaced by Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega, a civilian with a business and social work background.
He called on police to support Phiyega, saying: “Remember that she did not steal my job. She answered the same call I answered back in 2009 – the call to serve the people of this country.”
He said that although he did not know his successor, he had learned that she was highly competent, educated and accomplished when it came to administration.
Despite the administrative deficiencies which eventually lead to his sacking, Cele warned that policing was “less about administration” and more about “understanding being in the trenches”.
He advised Phiyega to “endear and work with the generals” but also said that she would need to work with and understand the foot soldiers who were at the coalface of crime-fighting.
“They have a lot of needs – understand their emotional needs, understand their physical needs,” he said.
“Tell them to keep their chest out and their stomach in.”