Bheki Cele in trouble over corrupt deals worth millions, plot to kill female police boss exposed

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

Suspended deputy national commissioner of asset and legal management Francinah Vuma is the latest to lambaste 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 FIFA World Cup procurement scandal, of coercion during her investigation into a multimillion-rand SAPS PPE deal and interference into retaining a general who was not suitably qualified. She also claimed the minister had spent R5.5 million of police money on traveling 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 … at a particular point were of the view that my life is in danger.

“It’s evident to me from the determined haste of (commissioner) 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 the SAPS to obstruct certain investigations against his colleagues.”

A spokesperson for the national police, Athlenda Mathe, said because the correspondence was not addressed to the media, the SAPS was not at liberty to discuss the contents with third parties. Vuma was previously alledegedly 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 valued at R120m in 2020.

Cele yesterday said he was invited to those meetings and that his trips were authorised by Ramaphosa.

“There is no single minister who leaves this country without the authority of the President, even if it is for a day. Those trips were for Interpol conferences, where police of the world meet to discuss and share ideas on how to combat crime,” Cele said.

Cele admitted that his chief of staff, Nonkululeko Mbatha, accompanied him on both trips and added that it was just a pure coincidence that she was born in November and the conferences happened in the same month.

“According to the ministerial handbook, every minister is allowed to take two people on his or her trip. It isn’t a crime that those trips happened on my chief of staff’s birthday, but we didn’t go there for any birthday celebration, but to attend a conference.”

Cele also denied that his wife, Thembeka, who accompanied him as his official spouse on the two trips, stayed behind in Dubai for shopping while he and the rest of the delegation returned to South Africa.

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 said.

Civil group Action Society 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.

“The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, is a leader in poor performance as South Africa sees the murder of at least 67 people per day,” said Action Society 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.

The 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.

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

Whitfield said the evidence from Vuma’s disclosure should also 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 … The 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, a lieutenant-general, who has been with the SAPS for 34 years, received a letter of intent to suspend her from 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 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 the 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 her letter.

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 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?”

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 has nothing to do with her suspension, it’s just a smokescreen.”

Vearey told our sister newspaper, 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 against him. “I was never found guilty for doing such a thing, my dismissal had nothing to do with her. That judgment 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? She knew about these things, why only now when she is faced with a possible suspension, she must answer that question.” Vuma declined to comment. The president’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said the letter of disclosure was yet to be brought to the attention of the president.

-Sunday Independent


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