Home South African Pressure mounts on Bheki Cele to step down

Pressure mounts on Bheki Cele to step down

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Pressure is mounting for an investigation into Police Minister Bheki Cele in a week where the beleaguered top cop came under heavy fire.

Suspended deputy national commissioner of assets and legal management Francinah Vuma is the latest to fire a broadside at Cele.

By Tracy-Lynn Ruiters and Mzilikazi Wa Afrika

PRESSURE is mounting for an investigation into Police Minister Bheki Cele in a week where the beleaguered top cop came under heavy fire.

Deputy national commissioner of assets and legal management Francinah Vuma is the latest to fire a broadside at Cele and other high-ranking police.

In a “protected disclosure” letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa she accused Cele of corruption and political interference and hatching a plan to kill her.

In the letter, Vuma implicated Cele in a 2010 World Cup procurement scandal, of coercion during her investigation into a multimillion-rand SAPS PPE deal and interference in retaining a general who was not suitably qualified.

She also claimed the minister had spent R5.5 million of police money on travelling to Dubai and to pay for his court cases.

Vuma said she feared for her life, having led these and other high-profile investigations into senior SAPS figures.

“I am both scared for my life and livelihood as both are being threatened … The (State Security Agency) SSA, who at a particular point, were of the view that my life is in danger.

“It’s evident to me from the determined haste of General (Fannie) Masemola to suspend me, that he is driven by improper motives. I believe that Masemola is working with people who are internal and external of SAPS to obstruct certain investigations against his colleagues.”

Spokesperson for the national police, Athlenda Mathe, said that because the correspondence was not addressed to the media, SAPS was not at liberty to discuss the contents with third parties.

Vuma was implicated and accused of spending more than R45 million in the “Nasrec Grabber” scandal.

She elaborated on the grabber investigation and said Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs and Cele purchased interception equipment to the value of R120m.

Cele said on Saturday his trips were authorised by Ramaphosa. “There is no single minister who leaves this country without the authority of the president. Those trips were for Interpol conferences, where the police of the world meet to discuss and share ideas on how to combat crime,” Cele said.

The police minister added that it was possible that Masemola was suspending Vuma after she was found guilty.

“If you are found guilty in the court of law, as a police officer with integrity, you must resign with immediate effect,” he added.

Civil society group Action SA has lodged a PAIA application to request access to the performance agreements signed by all the ministers, their evaluation reports and other related records or information since Ramaphosa put the policy into place in October 2020.

“Cele, is a leader in poor performance as South Africa sees the murder of at least 67 people per day,” said Action SA director of community safety, Ian Cameron.

Cele had Cameron forcibly removed from a community meeting in Gugulethu this week. Cameron has since laid charges of crimen injuria and common assault against Cele and police.

“It is shameful that the bar is set so low for such an important portfolio and even more worrying that Cele constantly fails to achieve even those,” added Cameron.

“This is the exact reason Action Society will continue to be a voice for the voiceless by acting where he fails, even if it means being shouted at and forcibly removed when calling him out on it.”

Freedom Front Plus also weighed in on the Cele debacle calling on the minister to urgently respond to Vuma’s allegations and for a probe to be launched.

“Minister Cele’s conduct has been controversial for quite some time now,” said FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald.

“According to the allegations of Vuma, it seems that Cele has once again interfered with the awarding of contracts to certain service providers. It is nothing but corruption and state capture. “I will request Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police to launch a thorough investigation into the matter. I will also ask President Ramaphosa in writing to appoint a judicial commission to investigate the allegations of corruption,” he said.

DA spokesperson on police Andrew Whitfield said pressure needed to be put on the president to get Cele to step down. “It’s something the DA has been doing for the past three years.”

Whitfield said the evidence in Vuma’s disclosure should be enough for the president to act on moral and legal grounds. “Vuma herself has questions to answer, but we shouldn’t forget about the bigger picture here … SAPS is the battleground for the factionalist interest of the ANC.

“The fact that the president isn’t taking action with all the evidence in front of him is concerning; it also shows that the president doesn’t have an appetite for the removal, and is just recycling the same old cadres.”

Vuma, who has had a 34-year career with the SAPS, had received a letter of intent to suspend her from National Commissioner Masemola on June 30.

The reasons cited for the suspension are linked to alleged misconduct in which Vuma failed to comply with, or contravened an Act, regulation or legal obligation to furnish the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) with information and documents for the purpose of its investigation between 2017 and 2021.

Vuma was given until July 4 to submit a written representation regarding her possible suspension or temporary transfer.

Police activist Colin Arendse and Major-General Jeremy Vearey were two other figures implicated by Vuma.

Vuma accused Arendse and Vearey in the letter of intimidation.

Vuma wrote: “I began receiving intimidating messages from Colin Arendse, in retaliation to the investigations that I had conducted against Jacobs. I reported the matter to the National Commissioner, who instructed me to write a statement for a threat assessment of my life.”

However, Arendse denied the allegations and said that Vuma was using her letter as a smokescreen to cover her tracks.

“Why didn’t she mention that she was found guilty of the grabbers scandal? Also, how does one respond with a protected disclosure letter after you get a letter of intent to suspend? That protective disclosure is supposed to be handed in before this, because she had knowledge of certain things.”

Arendse said he would be taking legal steps against Vuma. “We need to be able to separate fact from fiction. It’s bizarre that she mentions nothing about the finding in the Grabber ruling, but you go ahead resurrecting the same stuff again. She is bringing things into the public domain that have nothing to do with her suspension, it’s just a smokescreen.”

Vearey told the DFA’s sister publication the Weekend Argus that he did not know Vuma from “a bar of soap”.

“The only time I had spoken to her was when I approached her for a statement for the related matter. She refused to either testify or submit a statement; that was the only time I engaged with her. Other than that the only other times I’ve seen her was when she was on TV.”

Vearey rejected all the accusations made against him. “I was never found guilty for doing such a thing. My dismissal had nothing to do with her. That judgement was made, and it is done.”

Vearey explained that as a police officer and senior official Vuma had a duty to report what she knew prior to her intended suspension.

“Anything that is brought to your attention that requires disciplinary action and you fail to act accordingly, or fail to report it, means that your actions were grossly negligent. I just find it very strange that with all the knowledge she claims to reveal now, why wasn’t this so-called disclosure made back then? Is she knew about these things, why only now, when she is faced with a possible suspension, must she answer that question.”

Vuma declined to comment. The president’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the letter of disclosure is yet to be brought to the attention of the president.

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