Cloud of political interference still hangs over NPA - Pikoli

2016-11-22 18:05
Vusi Pikoli (Netwerk24)

Vusi Pikoli (Netwerk24)

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Mbeki defends his axing Pikoli

2016-02-09 11:51

Former President Thabo Mbeki has tackled those who accuse him of abusing State power over the suspension of former NPA head Vusi Pikoli.WATCH

Cape Town - The political interference that led to the removal of former NDPP Vusi Pikoli seems to be still hanging over the prosecuting authority, he said on Tuesday.

“There was a clear case then of political interference and unfortunately it would appear that this is still going on,” Pikoli said at an armchair discussion on the National Prosecuting Authority in Cape Town.

Pikoli said he could not understand the “strange” decision by two senior “career prosecutors” Torie Pretorius and National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams in the short-lived prosecution of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Gordhan and former colleagues at the SA Revenue Service, Commissioner Oupa Magashula and deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay had faced fraud charges. These related to Pillay being granted an early pension and then being rehired on contract.

They were charged with fraud and theft on October 11. Abrahams announced an about-turn on October 31, saying new evidence had come to light which convinced him that the three had not acted unlawfully. 

“I mean these are two senior prosecutors, career prosecutors, who really know matters that come before them,” said Pikoli later, on the sidelines of the discussion at the Centre for the Book.

“They are immediately able to tell that there are reasonable prospects here. They also have the power to send it back for further investigation until there is a reasonable success of prosecution.

“So one then is left with the thinking that perhaps there was some instruction to just go ahead, hoping to find something in the course of the case.”

‘Competent prosecutors’

He vouched for both Pretorius and Abrahams.

“As far as I know they are competent prosecutors. I don't want to speculate, but I can vouch for them, to say they are competent prosecutors.”

Pikoli said that to change perceptions of bias at the NPA, perhaps the first step would be to change the process of appointing an NDPP and make it open and transparent.

This would not be to take away the president’s power to appoint an NDPP but to make it transparent, and increase its credibility.

He had felt uneasy about his own appointment procedure in 2005.

He defended his credentials, saying he had several degrees and experience in the law and was a director general, but there was no competition. He was invited to former president Thabo Mbeki's home and offered the job.

“Kgalema and I have decided you must go there to be the NDPP,” said Pikoli, repeating the way he was given the job.

He was referring to ANC secretary general at the time, Kgalema Motlanthe.

Opposition parties have voiced concerns over a recent meeting between Abrahams and the ANC top brass at the party's headquarters Luthuli House in Johannesburg.

It took place before the decision to drop charges against Gordhan was made. Abrahams said the meeting was simply to discuss the prosecutorial aspect of the Fees Must Fall protests and arrests.

‘Worry about not prosecuting’

As a parting shot, Pikoli said, on the sidelines, that the public should worry more about decisions not to prosecute. At least in a prosecution, the court had the final say.

Pikoli's own tenure had a messy end when Mbeki and former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla wanted him to stop the prosecution of the late police commissioner Jackie Selebi on fraud and corruption charges.

He refused and was suspended and faced an inquiry into his fitness to hold office, based partly on his apparent failure to understand national security. The inquiry cleared him, but then Motlanthe removed him.

“That was a case of clear political interference,” said Pikoli.

Read more on:    npa  |  vusi pikoli

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