Hofmeyr decision not political - presidency
Johannesburg - The presidency has rejected claims that Willie Hofmeyr's removal as Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head is politically motivated.
"The allegations are unfortunate... to read into this sinister political motive is to run ourselves under and dishearten South Africans," said spokesperson Mac Maharaj on Wednesday.
"This [appointment] was a strategic restructuring to strengthen capacity to fight crime and corruption. It was guided by a need to radically improve things."
Zuma announced the appointment of former judge Willem Heath as the new SIU head on Tuesday.
He said this would ease the pressure on Hofmeyr who headed the SIU in conjunction with his role as head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU).
Maharaj said Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had been in restructuring talks for over a year on the matter.
The ever-increasing workload "would kill" Hofmeyr.
"Together, they will be in the top team of the fight against crime and corruption."
Heath headed the SIU when he was a judge in the Eastern Cape High Court.
He resigned as a judge in 2001 as a result of a Constitutional Court ruling which found that the appointment of a judge as head of the SIU was unconstitutional.
Heath currently serves as an adviser to Radebe and is the CEO of Heath Forensic Investigations.
Maharaj said: "Nobody can deny that Mr Heath has done a magnificent piece of work."
He criticised those who doubted Heath and complained that he was too close to Zuma.
"What does that mean? That when you are serving President Zuma you must be seen [as] incomplete? Mr Heath acted as a professional and when he left, South Africans felt he had done a really good job."
Asked about his relationship with Zuma, Heath said he acted in his capacity as an independent consultant when Zuma faced corruption charges in 2009.
‘My appointment is not a reward’
His research at the time concluded that the prosecution team was driven by tainted evidence and that there was no case against Zuma.
"It was in fact a chopped up case with tainted evidence," he reiterated on Wednesday.
Not long after his remarks, charges against Zuma were dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority.
"My appointment is in no way a reward or payback," said Heath.
He was looking forward to working with Hofmeyr, saying they had a good relationship.
"Having been there myself, it's impossible for anyone to hold those two positions."
Heath said he did not plan on changing anything or disrupting pending investigations.
He asked those who doubted him to give him an opportunity to demonstrate his dedication against corruption.
"I have built up... independence and integrity and have lost none of that."
Maharaj said while some might see it as a "shocking" move, Hofmeyr "fully" supported the appointment.
"He has welcomed the decision and [given] his full co-operation. I am sure that he will perform even better now that he can focus on one area."
"It was not a last minute decision but came as a result of a systematic analysis of a problem," Maharaj said.