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Police minister’s political pirouette Zuma arrest looms

Full circle: a series of developments that leads back to the original source, position or situation, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This apt description perfectly captures the position the police minister, Bheki Cele, has found himself in this week as he faces the prospect of arresting former president Jacob Zuma

Zuma unceremoniously fired Cele as the national commissioner in June 2012 after Cele was implicated by a board of inquiry in a lease scandal for two police buildings, valued at a combined R1.7-billion, in Tshwane and eThekwini.

The buildings that the South African Police Service sought to lease, according to the inquiry, belonged to Cele’s friend, businessman Roux Shabangu

Cele had challenged his axing in 2012, and said in April 2019 that he felt “vindicated” after the high court in Pretoria set aside his removal, without the court ordering his reinstatement. 

This week, the Constitutional Court ruled that Cele, together with national commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, should arrest Zuma within three days, should the former president not hand himself over to a police station in Johannesburg, Gauteng, or Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, by Monday, 4 July. 

At a media briefing on Tuesday to detail the latest Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that were announced on Sunday by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cele asserted, some might say gleefully, that he would carry out the court’s directives should the need arise. 

“The instruction is going to be the national commissioner and the minister of police to act – that will be within three days after five days have lapsed. We are instructed by a court and when the court instructs law enforcement agencies, we have to act,” the minister asserted. 

Interestingly, one of Zuma’s close allies, Arthur Fraser, the former head of the State Security Agency, is now the commissioner of correctional services, and will be responsible for the 15-month custodial sentence the former president is expected to spend behind bars. 

Meanwhile, the number five has also come full circle for Cele and one of Zuma’s trusted comrades, suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule

Zuma had five days to hand himself over to a Gauteng or KwaZulu-Natal police station. Ironically, it was Magashule who first broached the number five in the ANC’s factional battles. 

Magashule, while addressing a political rally during the ANC’s 106-year anniversary celebrations in January 2018 in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, implored those in attendance to be patient and wait “five years” before the party’s real leaders would return to the helm. 

This was a swipe at Ramaphosa, who had been elected the previous month as ANC president at the party’s five-yearly national conference. 

“Stay focused; the ANC we know will come back. It’s just a matter of five years; it’s a matter of five years. It’s a matter of five years, comrades. Conferences happen after each and every five years,” charged Magashule. 

In response to Magashule, Cele, who was one of Ramaphosa’s main supporters for the ANC presidency, and who spoke at a subsequent rally in KwaZulu-Natal in February 2018, retorted that Magashule himself was not safe in his position of secretary general. 

(John McCann/M&G)

“You see, comrades, you can’t be elected and be SG [secretary general] of the organisation, and you go on a platform during an important occasion such as the ANC’s 106-year anniversary in Pietermaritzburg, and say that those you were elected with, you’re giving them five years. Who told you that you will still be around in five years? Who told you that? 

“Now that you’re acting like God and giving us five years. Where will you be?” a fired-up Cele challenged. 

What goes around, comes around. Today, Magashule is temporarily kicked out of the ANC, and Zuma is at the mercy of the police minister, completing a full-circle week for Cele. 

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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