Presidency distances itself from Heath comments

2011-12-10 10:37

The Presidency today distanced itself from comments made by newly appointed Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Willem Heath against former President Thabo Mbeki, saying they were made in his personal capacity.

“The Presidency and government in general have nothing whatsoever to do with the comments made by Mr Heath,” said spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

“None of the allegations made by Mr Heath have been attributed to any duty or function which he exercises as the head of the SIU.”

Heath told the City Press that Thabo Mbeki, former president and political rival to Jacob Zuma, allegedly initiated rape and corruption charges against Zuma.

He also told the newspaper that Mbeki also allegedly abused his position to compromise the criminal justice system by blocking some investigations into corrupt practices.

The corruption charges against Zuma and arms company Thint were dropped, and Zuma was acquitted on the rape charge.

On Thursday, Mbeki’s office rejected the claims as defamatory and malicious. A lawyer for Mbeki’s foundation has asked the presidency for evidence of allegations that Heath reportedly levelled against him.

Maharaj acknowledged receipt of a letter in this regard, but said a perusal of the newspaper report makes it abundantly clear that it was conducted by Heath – who resigned as SIU head when Mbeki was president – in his personal capacity. Given the serious nature of the allegations, Zuma had instructed his office to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the Heath interview, he said.

Maharaj said Zuma made the announced during a radio interview on Wednesday, soon after he became aware of the City Press newspaper article.

“We wish to emphasise therefore, that President Zuma acted on the matter before any complaint from any quarter, because he was concerned about the contents of the interview,” he said.

“The President has requested the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to assist his office and prioritise the matter so that it can be brought to conclusion without delay.”

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