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South African Ombudsman Urges Action Against Police Chief

South Africa’s graft ombudsman urged the government to take action against a Cabinet minister and the head of police after finding that leases entered into for police offices were “unlawful.”

Police commissioner Bheki Cele and other security officials should face “disciplinary action” for their “unlawful and improper conduct,” after they neglected procurement procedures when they agreed to the leases, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said. Cele authorized the payment at over three times the market rate for the offices in Pretoria, the capital, and the eastern city of Durban, Madonsela said.

The Minister for Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde didn’t cooperate with investigations into the leases, which were worth a total of 1.8 billion rand ($262.7 million) over 10 years, Madonsela said in a report issued in Pretoria today.

Calls to both the offices of Obakeng Modikoe, the Department of Public Works’ spokesman, and the minister’s personal assistant, Sharon Mashiane, were not answered. Cele’s spokeswoman Nonkululeko Mbatha wasn’t immediately available for comment when called on her cell phone.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance urged President Jacob Zuma to immediately dismiss Cele and anyone else implicated in the report. “Should the president refuse this request, we believe he would be in breach of his sworn duty to uphold law and order,” the DA said in an e-mailed statement.

State Representatives

Madonsela last week told public officials they shouldn’t confuse their roles as representatives of the state and the ruling African National Congress, of which Cele is a member.

“We must guard against a situation whereby the dissimilarities between political parties and the state will become a bit blurry,” Madonsela said.

Cele, a member of the ANC’s top decision-making body, in 2009 replaced Jackie Selebi, who has since been sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption.

Madonsela investigated the 10-year lease for the new 18-storey police headquarters in Pretoria following an Aug. 1 report in the Sunday Times alleging that Treasury regulations had been flaunted by not going through a competitive bidding process.

ANC member Roux Shabangu bought the building on July 28, almost two months after Cele agreed the police should lease it from Shabangu, the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported.

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