Sacked police commissioner Cele fights back

Graeme Hosken

A DEFIANT Bheki Cele made it clear yesterday he was out to expose ministers who conspired against him, a judge he claims was pressured to find him unfit to hold office and, ultimately, a president who erred in firing him.

While Cele said he would “shut up” – after holding a dramatic press conference in Pretoria yesterday – he signalled his intention to launch a court case contesting the findings of an inquiry headed by Judge Jakes Moloi that recommended he be dismissed as national police commissioner.

His usual outspokenness and confidence could at times not mask the deep anger he felt after President Jacob Zuma’s announcement on Tuesday that he was fired.

Cele said he would go to court to have Zuma clarify which specific findings of the report he had relied on to arrive at his decision.

“There are mind-boggling aspects of [Judge Moloi’s] decision which are hard to fathom. I want the court to declare the entire Moloi report legally unsound. The consequence will render Zuma’s decision unlawful.”

Asked if he would accept his post back, Cele said: “I loved my job, but I am now ‘unfit’, and if I am ‘unfit’, how can I go back? I now have to move forward. I love politics and politics loves me. I will go home and think about what is next.”

While he has asked to be left alone to rebuild his life in KwaZulu-Natal, it was clear from his statements yesterday that Cele intends to settle scores.

He accused anonymous ministers of having met Judge Moloi before the inquiry began.

“I have minutes of a meeting Moloi attended with the inquiry’s prosecutors and others. They contain the names of a minister and ministerial representatives.

“During the meeting, additional charges against me were pressed for. These were taken to the president, who refused to entertain them,” Cele said.

“Why, if this was an independent board of inquiry, was Moloi meeting people who were later tasked to persuade him to rule in their favour? I confronted a minister linked to the Moloi meeting and we are now ‘comrades’.”

Judge Moloi said last night he did not have time to argue with people who did not know what they were talking about.

Cele was careful not to blame the ANC for his fate, saying: “I will never abandon the ANC. I will die an ANC member.”

He said his legal team would challenge Moloi’s report in court, and vowed to report Moloi to the Judicial Service Commission.

“It is not a challenge against the president. On Friday, I left a meeting with Zuma feeling warm. Our relationship is like that of a CEO … I just hope he has insurance.”

Asked about his relationship with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Cele said: “I have nothing to say to him.”

He insisted he had not resigned and had not received a golden handshake.

Two damning public protector reports on Cele’s involvement in controversial police headquarters leases totalling R1.7-billion led Zuma to appoint the board of inquiry headed by Judge Moloi.

But Cele hinted yesterday the inquiry was launched after he had insisted to Zuma that the Special Investigating Unit investigate the SAPS supply-chain management services for multibillion- rand fraud, and he had ordered the arrest and suspension of police crime intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli.

“It was like so many other commissions of inquiry that are rigged,” Cele said.

“Dirty tricks were used. There were individuals who courted corrupt politicians, who put themselves before service delivery. These political overlords have betrayed the cause of the ANC.

“I am a soldier and will be back. Even if it bankrupts me, I will expose the abuses of power. There was a persecution [of me] with no evidence to rely on.

“Attempts by my legal team to challenge the lack of evidence were denied, with Moloi saying a criminal investigation against me was warranted.

“I was thrown into the inquiry deliberately to be humiliated, with Moloi abandoning his oath to pursue the plot to get me out of office.”

Cele said he was concerned about how Zuma had come to his decision to fire him. “How can I be unfit to hold office if the president has praised my crime-fighting abilities?”

The public protector had found that he had not signed any lease agreement, did not have a relationship with Roux Shabangu – the owner of the two buildings the police tried to lease – and there was no evidence of corruption in the culmination of Shabangu concluding the lease agreements with the Public Works Department, Cele said.

“The one adverse finding the public protector made against me was deliberately distorted to make a case of corruption.

“The finding was that I failed to ensure the lease agreements … were preceded by proper supply-chain management processes within the SAPS and were put out to tender.”

Cele said he would question the public protector over her conclusion on this issue.

He had initially welcomed the idea of the inquiry. “My lawyers were going to cross- examine the witnesses.

“My court battle will lay bare the monumental errors of fact, logic and law that litter Moloi’s report,” Cele said.

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