South African President Zuma changes police chiefs amid scandals


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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- One day after being fired, former South African police chief Bheki Cele on Wednesday accused his critics of trying to discredit him and pledged to clear his name.

Cele, who was sacked Tuesday by President Jacob Zuma amid accusations of dishonesty and impropriety, said he would ask a court to review an investigation that found him unfit for office.


The investigation report contained ‘monumental errors of fact, logic and law,’ Cele, who had been suspended months ago, said during a news conference.

‘The only conclusion I could draw after reading the report is that someone must have prevailed upon Justice Jake Moloi to make sure that he retains a recommendation that I be fired at whatever cost,’ he said.

Cele came under investigation in a scandal that involved the leasing police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban from his friend, businessman, Roux Shabangu, at a highly inflated price.

A three-person commission of inquiry and an investigation by South Africa’s ombudsman, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, concluded that Cele acted improperly and dishonestly. Madonsela last year found Cele’s actions were unlawful, leading to Cele’s suspension. Last week, the commission of inquiry unanimously called on Zuma to remove Cele.

Zuma announced on Tuesday the appointment of Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega as s national police chief, the first woman to hold the post.

Cele is the second consecutive police boss Zuma has fired after allegations of dishonesty. Cele’s predecessor, Jackie Selebi, a former head of Interpol, was convicted in 2010 of fraud for accepting gifts from convicted drug trafficker and alleged underworld boss Glenn Agliotti, and was jailed for 15 years.


South African confidence in the police force has been battered by corruption and fraud scandals involving top police figures, reports of political vendettas carried out through police investigations and police demands for bribes from motorists.

Police statistics released in May showed that more than 630 police officers in Gauteng, the most populous province, had been arrested for offenses that include fraud, corruption, rape and murder.

Durban police boss, Eugene Nzama recently was ordered to take ‘special leave’ during an investigation of allegations of corruption and nepotism.

Controversy also swirls around suspended crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli. Last year, Mdluli was charged with corruption and fraud relating to the use of a secret crime intelligence fund to buy luxury vehicles and to hire members of his family. He also faced charges of murder, that were dropped, reportedly after Mdluli wrote a letter implying that he would help Zuma in his reelection bid.

Mdluli was reinstated, then suspended again, and last week was banned by a court from any police duties pending a high court review of the decision to reinstate him as crime intelligence chief.

Granting an interdict last week to prevent Mdluli from police duties, Judge Ephraim Makgoba, said the credibility of the police force was at stake.


‘The sooner this saga is brought to an end, the sooner the credibility of the police, security service and the justice system as a whole can be restored,’ the judge said.


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--Robyn Dixon