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Zuma Suspends South African Police Chief After Graft Claims

South African President Jacob Zuma suspended Police Commissioner Bheki Cele over his involvement in two office leases worth 1.8 billion rand ($225 million).

The South African president will set up a board of inquiry to probe Cele’s conduct, Zuma said at a press conference in Pretoria today.

Cele, a member of the ruling African National Congress’s top decision-making body, took over as police chief in 2009 from Jackie Selebi, who was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for corruption.

South Africa’s graft ombudsman in July said 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. Cele authorized a payment of more than three times the market rate for the offices in Pretoria, the capital, and the eastern city of Durban, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said.

Madonsela investigated the 10-year lease for the new 18-storey police headquarters in Pretoria following an August 2010 report in the Sunday Times alleged that Treasury regulations had been flouted by not going through a competitive bidding process.

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

South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, is ranked as the fifth-least corrupt country on the continent, behind Botswana, Mauritius, Cape Verde and Seychelles, according to Berlin-based Transparency International.

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