South African Police Service (SAPS) responds to Sunday Times reports
20 Jun 2011
The South African Police Service has taken note of the reports that appeared in the Sunday Times of 19 June 2011 under the headlines 'I feared for my safety' and Cele was "solely responsible". The SAPS will not be commenting on the contents of these reports until the Public Protector has finalised the investigation they purport to be based on, save to register the concerns outlined hereunder.
The SAPS has now come to the inescapable conclusion that the Sunday Times reporting into the Durban and Pretoria police headquarters matters has little to do with the pursuit of principled journalistic ideals, and everything to do with a vindictive and unjust campaign to discredit the National Commissioner, General Bheki Cele.
To illustrate this point, the SAPS reproduces, below, a set of questions it received from the Sunday Times on Friday, 17 June 2010 and the response it provided thereto.
Sunday Times questions:
- In her preliminary report, sent to General Cele for comment, the Public Protector finds General Cele guilty, again, of unlawful conduct and maladministration for your role in the procurement of a lease for the new headquarters in Durban. What General Cele's response this finding?
- In her preliminary report, the Public Protector finds that General Cele identified both the Transnet building in Durban and the Middestad building in Pretoria before the Department of Public Works became involved in the procurement process. This appears to contradict General Cele's comments that he merely signed needs assessments and left it to Public Works to procure the buildings. What is General Cele's position on this discrepancy?"
- In her preliminary report, the Public Protector recommends that the Minister of Police must take "urgent action" against SAPS officials found to contravene procurement law a policy, which includes General Cele. What is General Cele's position on this finding?
"We are legally barred from responding to any of your questions as they relate to an ongoing investigation by the Public Protector. Kindly refer to Section 9(1)(b) of the Public Protector Act 23, 1994 in this regard. That said, we would like to draw your attention to three aspects of the entire matter that you continue to ignore in your reporting:
- You are yet to retract the false allegation you published in the 1 August 2010 edition of your paper that General Cele signed a lease agreement for the Middestad Sanlam Building
- We are on record as having acknowledged that General Cele, as the accounting officer of the SAPS, is ultimately responsible for the administrative conduct of all SAPS members
- We have also gone on record urging you to distinguish between General Cele, the individual, and General Cele, the accounting officer, whenever you assign blame for any SAPS administrative action in your reports. Failure to do so amounts to nothing more than a conscious attempt to mislead the public
We trust that, in the interest of accurate, fair and balanced reporting, the report that you intend to publish tomorrow will fully reflect our response above."
Let South Africans be the judge of whether or not the failure by the Sunday Times to capture the totality of the SAPS' response to its questions did not amount to a conscious attempt to mislead them and negatively influence their perception of the National Commissioner.
The SAPS also finds it curious that the Sunday Times has suddenly gone quiet on its previously much-vaunted allegation of a so-called "improper relationship" between the National Commissioner and Mr Roux Shabangu without ever bothering to retract this allegation. When the paper published its initial reports into the Pretoria and Durban police headquarter leases, it left no stone unturned in its attempts to convince the public that there existed a 'friendship' between Mr Shabangu and the National Commissioner and that this 'friendship' would have motivated the SAPS to flout tender rules in entering into lease agreements with Mr Shabangu. This despite the SAPS' repeated assertions, at the time, that the National Commiissioner simply did not know Mr Shabangu and that, at any rate, the responsibility to enter into lease agreements lay with the Department of Public Works and not the SAPS.
The SAPS also wishes to record its displeasure at the fact that the Public Protector's unfinished and confidential report was leaked to the Sunday Times in the first place. The SAPS will shortly be approaching the Public Protector with respect to the contempt that the Sunday Times has shown to her office as well as to ask her to determine if the Sunday Times' possession of, and decision to publish details of her incomplete investigation thus subjecting the SAPS to a parallel process of enquiry, does not amount to a violation of the legislation governing the work of her office.
For the record, the SAPS is working on the response to the Public Protector's preliminary report. In its response, the SAPS will heavily contest a number of findings that are contained in the Public Protector's preliminary report with the distinct likelihood that her final report will be fundamentally different from the one that the Sunday Times decided to publish from. One of these findings is the allegation that General Cele identified the Transnet building in Durban.
The questions that anyone who is interested in the fair administration of justice should be asking themselves then is:
- To what extent has the Public Protector's investigation been compromised by the partial publication of her preliminary report and
- What recourse would be available to those who have already been prejudiced by the partial publication of her preliminary report should the findings of her final report turn out to be fundamentally different from it?
Enquiries: Source: South African Police Service
Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha
Cell: 083 645 6252
Issued by: South African Police Service
20 Jun 2011
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