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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Tuesday 28 May 2024

Criminal probe of Cele actions recommended

Suspended National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele should face a criminal probe into the irregular awarding of leases worth R1.7bn in Pretoria and Durban, a judge has recommended in what the Sunday Times describes as a damning 114-page report.

The commission of inquiry, led by Judge Jake Moloi, found Cele was 'dishonest' and 'not fit' to hold office. It called on President Jacob Zuma to fire him and recommended a criminal probe. The Sunday Times says it understands the three-member panel took the President through the recommendations point by point. The panel said Cele 'was not truthful' and tried to 'mislead' Zuma when he denied personally identifying the two buildings that he wanted the police to lease from businessman Roux Shabangu. The findings suggest Zuma should initiate a criminal probe into Cele to determine exactly why he broke the rules to benefit Shabangu. Cele's spokesperson, Vuyo Mkhize, reportedly told the paper that the call for 'further investigation' was 'devious' and 'dishonest', but said Cele would 'definitely' accept a criminal probe if it came to that. Zuma is now facing intense lobbying from Cele, whose lawyers gave the President a 23-page document on Friday calling on him 'not to accept' the 'inappropriate' recommendations. Full Sunday Times report

Cele hasn't given up the fight and is planning to seek a court review of the findings - a challenge that a Mail & Guardian report suggests could stymie the President's bid to save Crime Intelligence lynchpin Richard Mdluli. The report claims Zuma's legal advisers suggested Cele be given 10 days to respond to the findings, but this was cut to four. The urgency, it suggests, related to the need to 'move forward within the police environment, considering the current situation'. This 'situation', it appears, refers to the need to replace acting National Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi. He has emerged as unexpectedly resistant to executive interference with the investigation of Mdluli. The report notes that although Zuma is obliged to consider Cele's representations, senior police sources say plans are already under way to replace both Mkhwanazi and Cele. A Business Day report quotes Mkhize as saying. 'He (Cele) is just going to court to satisfy his view that the report is invalid.' Mkhize said the invalidity of the report was apparent to rational and objective readers. Full Mail & Guardian Online report Full Business Day report

Even if Cele is re-appointed, he will go to court to clear his name, Mkhize is quoted as saying in Beeld. 'Cele is going to the High Court, irrespective of what the President decides. The report is faulty and makes a number of unfounded and objectionable allegations about him. He will go to court for his reputation. If he doesn't go to court, 50m people will believe what is written in the report. Whoever authored it didn't consider the facts and evidence well,' he is quoted as saying. Full Beeld report

The Cele saga outcome is a victory for a still-free press, writes Legalbrief. It was the Sunday Times that exposed the National Commissioner's involvement in the dodgy lease deals and stuck with the story despite intimidation of its reporters, one of whom was arrested on spurious charges that were eventually withdrawn and denied access to lawyers for several hours. Later in the process its reporters cellphones were illegally bugged. A report in this week's Sunday Times recalls how the paper 'nailed' Cele. Full Sunday Times report

COPE has called for Cele to be replaced quickly by someone who is 'incorruptible', says a report on the News24 site. COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the police's reputation had been tainted by its history of controversial leadership and the number of senior policemen facing corruption, fraud, and murder allegations. Bloem said COPE called on the President to act with speed by making the inquiry's findings public and appointing a new commissioner. Full report on the News24 site

The Cele matter has also ensnared KZN Commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni, according to a Sunday Tribune report. It says the Moloi board of inquiry stopped just short of calling her a liar. Now the DA is calling for her to be fired. The party's police spokesperson, Dianne Kohler Barnard, is quoted as saying: 'She lied in a full investigation headed by a judge. She must go; the post must be re-advertised and the process must be fair and transparent, giving applicants an equal opportunity.' She added, according to the report: 'This is a very murky situation. Her husband's birthday party was paid for by a businessman who has since been arrested twice. She was also investigated by the Hawks. What kind of police commissioner is that?' Full Sunday Tribune report (subscription needed)