Written by James Miller
Two ministers in President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet were sacked on Monday, while national police commissioner Bheki Cele was placed on suspension.
While Zuma did not specifically say why Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka were being replaced, both had been implicated in wrongdoing by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s decision to allow two controversial building leases valued at R1.6 billion to go ahead, despite tender procedures not being followed and legal advice to the contrary, amounted to maladministration according to a finding by Madonsela.
Zuma said it was these very leases for police office space that had led him to suspend Cele and appoint a board of inquiry to look into allegations of misconduct in relation to the contracts. Earlier this year Madonsela said Cele’s actions in the two lease deals, involving property tycoon Roux Shabangu, were unlawful.
The board of inquiry would be led by retired Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, alongside advocates Terry Motau and Anthea Platt.
“I have also decided to suspend the national commissioner from duty with immediate effect, pending the outcome of the inquiry, in terms of section 8(3)(a) read with section 9(1) of the South African Police Service Act. He will, during the period of suspension, be entitled to his full salary, allowances, privileges and benefits, in terms of section 8(3)(b) of the act.”. Maj-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi would act in Cele’s position, Zuma said.
Current Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi would take over Shiceka’s post. Madonsela found Shiceka had racked up more than R1 million in travel costs for himself, his staff and friends in violation of the executive ethics code. This included a trip to Switzerland to see a girlfriend jailed on drug-related charges. Shiceka has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to go to court to contest Madonsela’s findings.
Current Communications Minister Roy Padayachie would take over Baloyi’s Public Service and Administration portfolio. Current Deputy Minister for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Dina Pule, would take over Padayachie’s communications portfolio.
In a statement, Helen Zille, leader of the DA said that “the DA welcomed the firm action taken by President Jacob Zuma today in firing Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Sicelo Shiceka, and suspending Bheki Cele. This announcement is better late than never. President Zuma’s government has been beset by controversy for several months. The Public Protector urged the President to take strong action against those involved in the SAPS lease deals as well as Minister Shiceka for his abuse of public money. We applaud the President for reaffirming his government’s commitment to the role of the Public Protector and other Chapter Nine institutions.
“Accountability is critical to making democracy work. If Ministers abuse their power, they must be fired. The Public Protector has already conducted a comprehensive inquiry into Commissioner Bheki Cele’s actions in the police lease deal scandal. We understand that legislation requires the President to establish a Board of Inquiry into the Commissioner’s actions, before any final decision can be taken to fire him. We trust this step will follow swiftly should the Board corroborate the findings of the Public Protector.”
SA – the Good News via SAPA