Home South African Bheki Cele ’blew R5 million on legal fees’

Bheki Cele ’blew R5 million on legal fees’

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Police Minister Bheki Cele allegedly blew R5.5 million on legal fees to prepare him after receiving a notice that someone might implicate him at the Zondo commission last year.

Minister of Police Bheki Cele. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News (ANA)

POLICE Minister Bheki Cele allegedly blew R5.5 million on legal fees to prepare him after receiving a notice that someone might implicate him at the Zondo commission last year.

Cele never testified at the commission.

The DFA’s sister publication the Sunday Independent has seen a letter from the state attorney in the Pretoria office which reveals that the SAPS legal service appointed Strauss Daly Attorneys after Cele received notices from the Zondo commission. He was informed that Colonel Kobus Roelofse, a Hawks investigator, might implicate him in his testimony at the hearing.

The letter states that the instructions sent to the law firm were handed over by Andile Khoza, a lawyer from Durban. Several years ago, he handled Cele’s review application of the Moloi Commission of Inquiry, which led to his firing as then-police commissioner in 2012 over the R1.7 billion lease scandal.

The Moloi commission found Cele to be “dishonest” in the handling of the lease agreements with businessman Roux Shabangu. Cele managed to get the report set aside in April 2019.

The letter revealed that Strauss Daly Attorneys submitted a couple of “invoices which have been paid to date and equal an amount of R5,,591 322.47. This amount includes advocates’ fees”.

The Office of the State Attorney also had a “concern” with one of the invoices submitted by Strauss Daly Attorneys on February 29, 2020, for R1,501,678.86 because “the invoice could have been generated way after the completion of the necessary consultations with the minister of police and after drawing up the necessary affidavits”.

The letter also added that “although further invoices were paid after the initial invoice, other invoices did not have any value added to the work already done”.

The Office of the State Attorney refused to pay this R1.5m invoice.

A senior advocate representing two people implicated at the Zondo commission, said on Saturday that his fees didn’t even amount to R1m.

“This R5.5m legal fee for preparing someone for the Zondo commission sounds like corruption to me,” the advocate, who asked not to be named, said.

Khoza said on Sarurday that he couldn’t comment on the matter.

“It is not within my authority to make any comments as attorney-client privilege prohibits such comments,” he said.

This is the second bombshell to drop involving Cele in recent weeks.

He is also accused of spending R1.3m on two trips to Dubai in 2018 and Türkiye in 2021 to attend Interpol conferences where he wasn’t invited.

The person who was invited was then-police commissioner Khehla Sitole. It was reported that the SAPS “stated the invitations were received from Interpol’s National Central Bureau for police officers only”.

Cele told Sunday Independent last week that President Cyril Ramaphosa had approved his international trips.

Cele spokesperson Lirandzu Themba failed to answer questions sent to her about the legal fees.

Cele’s alleged “irregular legal fees” and the overseas trips were reportedly investigated by the deputy national police commissioner for assets and legal management, General Francinah Vuma, who was suspended last week.

Vuma, in her protected disclosure letter sent to Ramaphosa and senior members of the security cluster, claims that before she was suspended, she was investigating “irregular payments to cover the legal fees of the minister to the value of R5.5m”, among others, but didn’t elaborate.

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