Money for silence

2008-12-16 00:00

WHEN former president Thabo Mbeki appointed, not a judge, but Frene Ginwala, the former speaker of Parliament and still a loyal member of the African National Congress, to head a commission of inquiry into the fitness of suspended national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli to hold office, some commentators expressed reservations. These concerns, it would now seem, were justified, because the published report is both disingenuous and ambiguous.

Ginwala did not find, as was widely reported, that Pikoli is fit to hold office. What she found is that “the government has failed to demonstrate that Advocate Pikoli is not fit to hold office” — which is not quite the same thing. Moreover, while dismissing a number of the complaints made by the government against Pikoli, she inexplicably went on, beyond the commission’s terms of reference, to identify other aspects of Pikoli’s conduct about which the government did not complain, particularly the national security issue. The damning conclusion was that “some deficiencies in the capacity and understanding of Pikoli to fully execute the range of responsibilities attached to the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions became apparent”. This was evidently the rope used to hang Pikoli.

What has also come to light is that Pikoli was offered a golden handshake of no less than R10 million to go quietly. He declined and so he has been fired by President Kgalema

Motlanthe. In taking this step, clearly in response to instructions from his bosses in the ANC hierarchy, Motlanthe has diminished his own stature in the eyes of many South Africans who hoped greater things of him. Pikoli, on the other hand, has shown himself to be a man of honour and integrity, qualities which he has not been prepared to exchange even for R10 million.

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