Johannesburg — The presidency declined to comment on Thursday on reports that suspended Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele has been fired.
“We have no comment on the matter at this stage,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
Cele’s spokesman Vuyo Mkhize and his lawyer Vincent Maleka were not immediately available to confirm or deny the reports.
The Star reported that Cele was informed of his axing on Wednesday. He was told to vacate his office, and that his replacement was due to report for duty on July 1.
The Times reported that Cele was told about the decision on Tuesday.
Both reports were based on unnamed sources.
The Times source said Cele would fight the dismissal “tooth and nail”.
“The general is not going to roll over and die. He is not that kind of man. He is strong. Stronger than this and [he] will fight all the way,” the source said.
Mkhize told SABC radio news on Thursday that he saw Cele at lunch on Wednesday and said no decision had been conveyed to Cele.
He said that when similar things had previously come out in the media, they often turned out to be correct, so the reports might be accurate.
On Wednesday night Maharaj said President Jacob Zuma would make his decision on Cele known when he was “ready”.
Last month, a board of inquiry appointed by Zuma found Cele unfit to hold office and recommended he be fired. He has been suspended since last year.
The inquiry followed a finding in July by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that Cele’s involvement in deals to acquire police office space was “improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration”.
Madonsela concluded that while Cele had not signed the final lease, he had initiated negotiations with property tycoon Roux Shabangu, and had seemed determined to secure the leases despite warnings against them.
The Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday that Zuma must announce whether he has fired Cele.
“President Zuma must tell the police and the public whether he has indeed sacked Cele,” said DA spokeswoman on police, Dianne Kohler-Barnard.
“The ongoing uncertainty about the situation in the top brass of the [SA Police Service] undermines police morale, public confidence in the police and the fight against crime,” she said.