There's no evidence implicating me - Bheki Cele
Police minister Bheki Cele has rubbished allegations that he was bribed with R40,000 to look the other way during his tenure as the top cop.
Cele was responding to Crime Intelligence officer Dhanajaya Naidoo's testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry yesterday in which he testified that he
believed Cele was bribed to protect corruption-accused intelligence officer Solomon Lazarus.
Lirandzu Themba, Cele's spokesperson, told Sowetan last night the police minister believes "there hasn't been any evidence implicating him and it would be illogical to respond to assumptions".
"General Cele says he will wait until after Colonel Dhanajaya Naidoo has completed his testimony to give a response, if need be," said Themba.
"It must be emphasised that throughout the testimony of this particular witness concerning General Cele, even the chairperson of the commission Judge [deputy chief justice] Raymond Zondo pointed out gaps in his testimony, calling for him to give evidence based on facts and not assumptions.
"At some point even the witness admitted that he was assuming about his version of events and wasn't sure."
Naidoo, who is in witness protection, described a 2009 meeting at the home of
businessman Panganathan "Timmy" Marimuthu. Present at the meeting were Naidoo, Marimuthu, Lazarus and later Cele.
"At the time, [Richard Mdluli] was appointed [as head of Crime Intelligence]. Lazarus was informed by Mdluli that he was going to be transferred out of the secret service account division.
"There was resistance. [Lazarus] subsequently made arrangements for a meeting between himself and Cele. Marimuthu would be the go-to guy to facilitate this meeting," said Naidoo. "There were several meetings held between Lazarus and Cele."
Lazarus was the finance officer in charge of Crime Intelligence's secret service
account, which holds funds to pay for intelligence operations, vehicles and equipment. He, together with Mdluli and others, stand accused of using cash from the account to bankroll the purchase of luxury cars and overseas trips.
Naidoo, who also benefited from the alleged looting of the account, said what he saw at the meeting between Lazarus and Cele led him to believe money had changed hands.
"Lazarus was waiting for Cele to have a meeting. Closer to the time Cele arrived, Lazarus told me it was not easy to organise a meeting with Cele. He made a call to another Crime Intelligence member to organise cash, which I assumed was to be paid over to Cele," said Naidoo.
"Lazarus was not aware I had cash with me, about R40,000, which I had taken from our Crime Intelligence office. I can't remember what the advance was for. I informed him I had the cash and I handed him the money," said Naidoo.
He said Lazarus moved to another part of the house to meet Cele. "None of that money was returned to me. The
assumption again, on my part, was that the money was handed over to Cele," he said.
Dr Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies described the allegations made by Naidoo as "reckless and irresponsible", owing to the fact that they amounted to assumptions.
"He [Naidoo] agreed that this was simply an assumption. It's a dangerous thing to do because it tarnishes the image of the minister without any proof. I am glad Judge Zondo pointed it out. As soon as there is real proof that he indeed
accepted money that was not due to him then the minister needs to face the consequences," said Burger.
He said Cele should issue a statement on the matter to
refute the allegations and use the platform provided by
the commission to publicly contest the allegations.
"This was an assumption that has great consequences on the image of the minister. It is serious enough to paint him in a bad light," said Burger.
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.