Heath: Quitting was right
Durban - Former judge Willem Heath has broken his silence, saying his dramatic resignation last week as the head of the Special Investigating Unit was the right thing to do.
In a letter e-mailed to political parties represented in Parliament, trade unions and The Witness, he said the unit was one of the most important institutions to support and develop South Africa’s democracy.
The unit and the country’s interests were therefore more important than his own.
Heath said events of the past fortnight had created the impression that he was unable to head the SIU independently.
He was thus “ethically bound” to resign from the post due to “the doubt created in the public eye”.
Referring to reported comments in the City Press newspaper, that riled among others, former president Thabo Mbeki and ex-NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka, Heath said: “Correct or not, the initial media coverage of an interview in which I participated left the impression that I made unqualified statements of political events which may be unbecoming of the head of the SIU.
“In the public domain therefore, such an impression has created much public debate and impression is often as important as fact.”
The role of the SIU head dictated that any South African of whatever political persuasion or belief may approach the unit to investigate any matter.
If the impression was created - correctly or through innuendo - that the head of the unit was not independent enough to deliver on such a mandate “then the SIU and the republic would be better served by me resigning from such a position”.
Heath, who was central to the unit’s establishment under former president Nelson Mandela, reminded parties of his success as the unit’s inaugural head.
“My part in drafting the legislation governing the SIU and my well-known history of heading the SIU without fear or favour makes me adequately experienced and qualified to head the SIU.”
Doubt in public eye
However, he was ethically bound to resign from this position the second time around due to the doubt created in the public eye.
Heath said that corruption was not only a government evil, but was fuelled by the “often unsolicited bribery of government officials by the private sector”.
The collective vision that South Africa would achieve greatness by eradicating corruption and improve service delivery was of fundamental importance.
“It is therefore my sincere hope that this collective vision will allow South Africa to progress to a nation where service delivery and the fundamental rights of South Africans are promoted by effectively combating corruption – a shared vision by government, all political parties and South Africans in general,” said Heath.
It is not clear whether Heath will be re-employed as Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s special adviser.
Heath heads a consulting service in Cape Town.
Download the letter here.