Behind the recent, unsubstantiated allegations made by Advocate Malesela Teffo about presidential interference in the Meyiwa case lies the root cause of his anger and frustration : President Ramaphosa’s retention as Minister of Police a man who is so patently unfit to hold that powerful position. Teffo is among those, on record, who have reported gross SAPS corruption to the President (and Parliament) without any action being taken against a man who even over-rides undertakings given by the President (to protect Thabiso Zulu), and whose meddling in policing is leading South Africa down the police state road. Is it not obvious from what happened last July (2021) that retaining Cele in his present position is a threat to national security?
Cele’s imprisonment on Robben Island is insufficient reason to bestow respect. The ANC’s Daluxolo Luthuli left the Island to head the apartheid military’s Caprivi training, which killed members of his own organization. Cele’s contribution to policing shows contempt for the Freedom Charter and the country’s Constitution, and it has brought about a return to apartheid policing. Since the 1990s, he has done nothing to support good policing. As the ANC’s policing representative in the 1990s he turned a blind eye to the persecution of the province’s best detectives (black Africans) who were subject to malicious prosecutions because their excellent investigations were exposing IFP and ANC killers, including in Richmond. He even tried to persuade KZN’s most senior black detective, whose malicious prosecution cost him the job of provincial detective head (it went to a white security policeman) and his subsequent relocation to another province.
His failure to make constructive interventions in policing continued during his five-year stint as MEC (2004-2009) and was marked by controversy. He is alleged to have given millions of rand to a notorious taxi boss (with whom he has a close relationship) to ‘mediate’ conflict in which the mediator was implicated. According to citizens’ rights group Real Democracy, he also dispensed R250 millions of taxpayer funds to convicted apartheid drug dealer, and personal friend, ‘Timmy’ Marimuthu, for transport tenders for his trucking business (it was SB and CCB who ran apartheid era drugs). Together with his current advisor, apartheid cop Booysen, he was interdicted by the High Court from killing Maphumulo taxi boss Bongani Mkhize in November 2008. Mkhize was shot dead by Booysen’s Cato Manor unit police two months later.
During Cele’s tenure as MEC he would have worked closely with then Deputy Provincial Commissioner (and now National Commissioner Commissioner) Masemola while illegal paramilitary training in KZN continued. It was even covered by the media. In the Macambini area, the late Chief Mathaba (whose pre-1994 involvement in hitsquads was confirmed by the TRC) continued to target ANC supporters post 1994. It was there, in 2006, that paramilitary training by men wearing caps bearing the old South African flag was taking place. Local ANC Women’s League leader Mrs SZ was under threat of death by Mathaba, and narrowly missed being attacked by these trainees. The Premier was warned of the danger to her life but took no action, presumably because of business deals involving his department and Mathaba. In February 2007, SZ’s home was razed, and, apart from shrapnel injuries to grandchildren, the family miraculously escaped with their lives while coming under attack by gunmen. She lost everything, and got no help from the ANC. A detective who had done his best to investigate cases involving Mrs Z and other ANC comrades complained bitterly that even the MEC was of no help to him.
Cele’s track record as National Commissioner SAPS is on public record, including as it relates to corruption and nepotism in appointments and promotions. His appointments included apartheid security policeman Mdluli to head (and loot) Crime Intelligence, and Khomotso Phahlane to head the SAPS forensic laboratory. A forensic audit following a complaint by whistleblowers confirmed some of their departmental fraud allegations. The criminal investigations into Phahlane were initiated by Robert McBride, whose dismissal from IPID is thought to be linked to the connection between Phahlane and Cele. As indicated below, the very same irregular, and illegal, trends evident during Cele’s tenure are now conspicuous in his ministerial interference in policing – with very serious implications for stability. It was Cele who signed the document authorizing the corrupt World Cup tender in 2010, for which the KZN Commissioner he had appointed, Ngobeni, and businessman Panday, have been charged. Why has Cele not been charged?
Cele showed his apartheid hand immediately after his appointment, with the re-militarisation of the SAPS that the ANC government had replaced with a community-driven focus. Military ranks were accompanied by military salutes (the only thing missing is the goose-stepping). He competed with apartheid policing in actively promoting police brutality – not only in ‘shoot to kill’ instructions but in the training of police members. For no good reason except his own he established the Tactical Response Team, which immediately acquired a reputation for torturing and shooting people dead (sometimes while wearing balaclavas). This overt brutalization led to the Marikana massacre, in which his TRT featured conspicuously.
As a populist politician, Cele has always relished operational involvement, and he lost no time in interfering, operationally, after his appointment as National Minister in 2018. Operational involvement by ministers (encouraged during Zuma years) is completely irregular. Constitutionally, it is not their job to micro-manage. To use a recent example, it is the job of SAPS management, not the minister, to establish a task team into the recent Soweto tavern massacre, or to arrange patrols in the area. Soon after his appointment, he showed his hand in trying to stop the dismissal of Deputy National Commissioner Mngwenya, whose promotion he had fast-tracked while national commissioner to a newly created deputy commissioner post. Then National Commissioner Sitole stood firm, and Mngwenya, facing serious fraud charges, was dismissed. Cele pushed the President to dismiss Sitole, especially after the national commissioner had moved Cele’s Robben Island buddy, General Jacobs, from heading national Crime Intelligence because of poor performance
That Jacobs was not to be trusted is shown in a counter-intelligence report leaked to the media (which existence has been independently confirmed). It reported that certain apartheid-era members Crime Intelligence members in KZN (one of whom Cele would recall from his Richmond days in the late 1990s, when ANC warlord Sifiso Nkabinde was killed in intra-ANC conflict) were using slush funds to run the political hitsquad which had killed councillor Sindiso Magaqa, who had exposed corruption leading to high office in the Umzimkhulu area of KZN. The report also claimed they attacked and torched trucks. According to media reports, it was given to Jacobs as national CIS head but, instead of giving it to line manager Sitole, he gave it to Cele – who denied that he knew about it. Who, then, classified it?
Together with his involvement in intelligence matters – Marimuthu and family reportedly work for CIS – the fact that a ministerial team investigating political killings in KZN apparently reports to him creates a huge conflict of interest. Cele is deeply embedded in the politics of KZN and some of his colleagues may well be suspects in politically-driven killings. The man who reports to Cele, General Khumalo, is believed to have been a member of the KwaZulu Police who was integrated into Operational Response Services (thus never a detective). After being accused of grossly irregular conduct as a brigadier in national ORS, he was promoted to his present position of general, and deployed to head the ministerial team. Members of his team have made many malicious arrests, and stand accused of abusing suspects, and other illegal conduct. It was they who arrested Thabiso Zulu for no good reason on Sunday 10 October 2021 and illegally seized his cellphones (i.e. without a judicial order). One was damaged beyond repair. That Cele has refused Thabiso Zulu the protection ordered by the Public Protector (and endorsed by Ramaphosa) is well known. However, his own SAPS members have been implicated in an attempt on Zulus’s life that almost killed him, in October 2019, and in gross physical abuse and malicious arrest in July 2020.
Thabiso Zulu has risked his own life in trying to secure justice for his close friend Sindiso Magaqa. Initially progress in this case was good, but then the man who allegedly pulled the trigger was killed, the task team headed by Khumalo took over, and, when bail was given to the remaining accused earlier this year, questions were asked about the quality of evidence against them. Bail had previously been refused because of the strength of evidence. Two of the accused are members of Cele’s private TRT army. Now, given that an intelligence report which claims that the hit on Magaqa was orchestrated by Crime Intelligence members has been classified, and their man who allegedly pulled the trigger has been killed, justice is being, willfully, obstructed, at the highest levels by the failure to declassify it.
It seems that the intelligence report was not the only matter Sitole was not informed about by his deputies, some of whom may have benefitted during Cele’s tenure as national commissioner. From a source close to him, it seems that he did not know about the arrest of Malesela Teffo on1 November 2021. Three people, two of whom were white members of apartheid era vintage, arrested Teffo, without a warrant, on 1 November at 0400 and took him in his pyjamas to ‘Sun City’ prison (Johannesburg), without a court appearance, where he was kept for ten days. The two white members had been appointed weeks before his arrest, around the time Cele had threatened him, and, when he tried to check on them after his release, they had already resigned. He knows Sitole’s signature well, from his police clients’ documents, and claims that the signature on the appointment cards was not that of the commissioner. He is not the only one to have made claims about the forging of Sitole’s signature.
Cele’s hand in operational matters is everywhere. Since the SAPS has become, as Robert McBride put it in his evidence to the Zondo commission, a patronage network benefitting management members, hundreds of competent, experienced members have been illegally dismissed through Expeditious Disciplinary processes for no good reason except to feed the gluttonous patronage appetites. When they win in arbitration, and even when they obtain court orders, they battle to be reinstated, as management has no compunction in spending obscene amounts of taxpayers’ money on lawyers, while dismissed members battle to pay legal fees. Take, for example, what has happened to one of Teffo’s many clients, Mr D. The Labour court ordered his reinstatement ten years ago. He went back to work for two years but never received a salary, so he left. Teffo has been negotiating a payout since then and Mr D was with him when he was arrested in November 2021 for ‘trespassing’ at the Gauteng SAPS headquarters. Whistleblower Patricia Mashale has provided evidence to SARS (SA Revenue Service) of serious fraud linked to the SAPS deducting income tax despite not paying salaries. At a meeting in April between representatives of these dismissed members, the deputy minister and deputy commissioner who were present claimed not to know about it (not true) and promised action. However, the message went out that the Minister would consider their grievances only if they stopped criticizing him and holding him responsible. It is surely self-evident that this is a matter for SAPS management to deal with through proper legal procedures. It cannot be settled at the whim of a minister.
Were South Africa a true democracy, Cele would have been shamed into resigning after the violence and pillaging of July 2021. As minister he bears responsibility for the SAPS’ complete failure to pre-empt, and then deal with, the mayhem which caused huge loss of life and financial damage. Cele (a known political fence-sitter) clearly did not want to arrest Zuma, and even tried to persuade the Constitutional Court to delay the arrest. He was forced to back down when it was made clear that he would face a contempt of court charge if he failed in his duty. His zeal for operational matters seems to have vanished when the blocking of the national highways started, immediately after the arrest, when he should have been calling on the President to deploy the army to assist in keeping roads clear, and set up roadblocks. That it should have happened by that Friday (two days after Zuma left for prison) at the latest was self-evident, even without intelligence information. Did he not even consult with his friends in the provincial Crime Intelligence Service?
Why, then, did President Ramaphosa not move him when he re-shuffled his cabinet after the July mayhem? In addition to his own documented history of corruption and nepotism as national commissioner, Cele’s contempt for the Constitution could not be clearer : He promotes policies which encourage the police to break laws designed to protect lives, prevent torture, ensure fair labour practice, and protect privacy. He even argued before the Constitutional Court that those he is keeping under surveillance (illegally, no doubt) should not be notified about it. Unlike other ANC stalwarts, he has shown little interest in protecting even his own political colleagues like Mrs Z, buts has bestowed his favours on notorious apartheid operatives.. Having succeeded in removing Sitole, Cele has now suspended Deputy National Commissioner Vuma, who has made a detailed Protected Disclosures affidavit, while claiming that she fears for her life. Predictions by informed police sources were that this, and other planned moves, were not about shortcomings of incumbents, but about putting his own stooges into key positions. News about appointments to acting positions appeas to confirm these predictions. Most of these appointees lack competence and/or have skeletons in their own closets, some dating to when Cele was national commissioner. One, very dangerous, appointment, is that of a member with no experience in this field to head Crime intelligence. Of particular interest is that, apart from the national commissioner who has long had a close relationship with Cele, national management is now dominated by members from Ace Magashula’s Free State SAPS (Magashula, former provincial premier, is currently facing charges linked to State Capture)>
Will the real Commander-in-Chief of South Africa stand up and tell South Africa whether he approves of this return to apartheid policing, where the police break the country’s laws with impunity. Will he show his approval by keeping a man who is in contempt of the Constitution he swore to protect as Minister of Police? If he fails to remove Cele, will he please tell South Africa why he is not doing so. Retaining Cele as minister is absolutely no guarantee that he will not change factional sides. His new acting management appointments demonstrate that RET factional controls of the SAPS are being cemented.
Factional politics should play no part at all in decisions about ministerial appointments, especially in such a crucial portfolio, where it is the lives of South Africans which are at stake. Should President Ramaphosa fail to remove Cele, and institute immediate reforms to, and de-politicse, the SAPS, he will shoulder the blame for leaving South Africa vulnerable to the type of destabilization which wrecked lives, and the economy, in July 2021. If Cele continues to be given free rein, the security of the country is at serious risk, and we all have good reason to be afraid…very afraid.