Politics

South Africa: Police chief Bheki Cele fired by President Jacob Zuma

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South African National police Commissioner Bheki Cele gives a press conference on November 18, 2010 in Cape Town after the police have arrested a second man in connection with the murder of a Swedish newlywed on her honeymoon in Cape Town.

Credit:

RODGER BOSCH

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Bheki Cele has been fired as top police chief, South African President Jacob Zuma announced today.

Cele, suspended last year after allegations of unlawful property deals, has been replaced by Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega. She is South Africa's first female national police commissioner.

Cele's dismissal comes amid growing frustration in South Africa over corrupt and incompetent police, from traffic cops soliciting a bribe to the controversial appointments of some of the country’s highest-ranking police officials.

A board of inquiry last month found that Cele was not fit to hold office, and recommended he be dismissed.

"I have decided to release General Cele from his duties," Zuma told reporters in Pretoria.

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Allegations about Cele's property deals were first reported in South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper, on August 1, 2010. 

A corruption investigator ruled last year that Cele and a government minister were involved in property deals that were "improper, unlawful, and amounted to maladministration."

Public protector Thuli Madonsela investigated leases for buildings that were to have served as police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban, and found that the buildings were leased from a well-connected company at inflated prices.

She slammed Cele for his involvement in the deals, and called for disciplinary action against him by President Zuma.

In the Durban deal, police had offered $169 million to a politically connected property tycoon for a 10-year lease that was worth less than one third of that amount.

Cele's predecessor, Jackie Selebi, is serving a 15-year jail sentence for corruption after being convicted of taking $156,000 in bribes from drug dealer Glenn Agliotti.

More from GlobalPost: South African fraud investigators slam country's top police chief