Cele saga needs a resolution, for the good of the country
The Times Editorial: The board of inquiry into suspended National Commissioner of Police Bheki Cele has started sitting - four months after it was announced by President Jacob Zuma.
Yesterday, former procurement manager Lieutenant-General Hamilton Hlela testified that Cele had referred him to the Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria that would become the police's headquarters.
The inquiry, of course, emanates from a damning report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela into the police acquiring two buildings that belonged to businessman Roux Shabangu.
In her report, Madonsela had said that Cele's conduct was "improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration".
This led to Cele's suspension last October and the inquiry being announced.
Yesterday, inquiry chairman Judge Jake Moloi said the hearing would not deal with the protector's report, but whether there was misconduct on Cele's part, and if he was fit to hold office and execute his duties efficiently.
It was, therefore, natural that Cele's legal representative would seek to undermine Hlela's testimony and infer that Cele had not sourced the Middestad building. And this is exactly what they did.
Cele has, throughout the investigation and subsequent findings, repeatedly stated his innocence and that he was not the key person who initiated the Shabangu deals.
Yesterday, judging from Hlela's testimony, Cele seemed to be on his way to being exonerated to a large degree.
It is, of course, just the beginning of the inquiry. And, for the sake of the police service, it is hoped that the true facts will eventually emerge.
With a former police chief in prison and the current one fighting to clear his name, South Africa can ill afford this saga continuing to drag on without a clear and final resolution.