How we nailed Cele
Reporters were illegally bugged as they pursued the story
A TWO-PAGE document leaked to the Sunday Times in 2010 started it all. The document suggested that national police commissioner General Bheki Cele wanted to move the SA Police Service head office into a building owned by businessman Roux Shabangu - without following proper procedure.
After the Sunday Times broke the story on August 1 2010, a blustering Cele called a press conference to deny any wrongdoing.
In typical cowboy style, the police boss, who is now facing the axe, called our reporters, who wrote the story, "shady".
Two days later, one of the authors of the original report, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, was arrested on spurious charges that were later withdrawn. He was held without bail, interrogated about his political leanings and denied access to his lawyers for several hours. It was reminiscent of the bad old days of detention without trial.
Wa Afrika has since filed a lawsuit for wrongful arrest and the matter is scheduled to go on trial in November. The Sunday Times has also filed a suit to claim costs relating to his unlawful arrest.
A day before Wa Afrika was detained, advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability, had lodged a complaint with the public protector asking her to probe Cele.
The dirty tricks intensified.
As our reporters continued investigating the police lease scandal, they became targets of smear campaigns, their movements were monitored and their cellphone communications intercepted.
The inspector-general of intelligence, Faith Radebe, has since confirmed that the Hawks bugged Wa Afrika's cellphone.
Later that year, two more cellphones, used by Wa Afrika and his colleague Stephan Hofstatter, were illegally bugged for about three months. This has been confirmed by police investigating the matter.
As a result, the head of crime intelligence in KwaZulu-Natal, Major-General Deena Moodley, has been suspended from his job.
But the pressure on Cele continued to mount. Shortly after our exposé in August 2010, former public works minister Geoff Doidge suspended the lease for the Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria - owned by Shabangu - based on a damning legal opinion by law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
President Jacob Zuma fired Doidge two months later and replaced him with Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde wasted no time reinstating the Pretoria lease, despite receiving two legal opinions in December 2010, telling her the agreement was unlawful
Separately, the Sunday Times exposed Shabangu again in another shady police lease tender, worth R1-billion, for the relocation of the provincial SAPS in Durban.
Following our report, that deal was stopped.
In February 2011, public protector Thuli Madonsela released her first report into the Middestad building lease, which found that Cele's conduct was "improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration".
Madonsela released her second report into both the Durban and Pretoria police lease deals, now calculated to be worth R1.7-billion, and found Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde guilty of improper conduct and maladministration for their roles in driving both deals in July 2011.
It took Zuma almost four months to act on Madonsela's report.
He fired Mahlangu-Nkabinde and suspended Cele in October.
A month later, Zuma appointed a board of inquiry to probe Cele's fitness to hold office. The inquiry started on March 5 and submitted its report last Sunday.
Cele-lies v The Board's findings:
- CELE: I do not know who identified that building.
- BOARD: The buildings were identified by the national commissioner personally. He favoured the buildings owned by Shabangu.
- CELE: The reports that I know the owner of the building [are] completely not true.
- BOARD: The national commissioner clearly knew Shabangu.
- CELE: The needs assessment by the SAPS was duly signed off by me. That is where my role as accounting officer for the SAPS ends.
- THE BOARD: Cele pushed for the entire building in both Pretoria and Durban to be leased by the SAPS, even when the needs analysis showed that a lesser amount of space was required.
- CELE: The Department of Public Works has issued a media statement that absolves me of any wrongdoing.
- BOARD: The conduct of all those involved in the deals in the DPW is sufficient evidence of corrupt activities taking place in it, indicative of the rot that has set in and the promotion of favoured parties to the detriment of the state.
- CELE: The police pushed the urgency of the matter. Yes, those two floors were urgent.
- BOARD: No urgency existed. The purported urgency was thus unjustified and was of their own making,
Read the documents