Chikane: Why Mbeki suspended Pikoli

2013-03-24 10:00

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New book reveals potential shoot-out between cops, Scorpions.

Former president Thabo Mbeki suspended the country’s top prosecutor Vusi Pikoli to avoid a shoot-out between the police and the disbanded Scorpions unit “that might have been far worse than the Marikana tragedy”, a new book claims.

This revelation is contained in former director-general in the presidency Reverend Frank Chikane’s latest book, The Things that Could Not be Said: From A(ids) to Z(imbabwe).

Chikane writes: “Questions would have been asked about how the president could not have foreseen the incident and why he did not act to avoid it – just as people are asking now about Marikana.

“The world would have called us a banana republic, incapable of governing itself.”

Pikoli declined to answer specific questions, but said he would provide?a?“comprehensive response” in a book he intends publishing before the end of the year.

“I have not read the whole book other than the chapter emailed to me by City Press and I do not wish to respond piecemeal to it because that would be unfair to Rev?Chikane.

“I have, however, picked up some factual inaccuracies and some untruths told over a long period of time with the hopeless hope that with time they will become true,” Pikoli said this week.

Pikoli, who headed the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), was suspended after he refused in 2007 to give Mbeki two weeks before he had former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi arrested.

At the time of his suspension, the Scorpions, which fell under the NPA, wanted to raid the police’s crime intelligence headquarters to retrieve files for their investigation into Selebi, who was later convicted of corruption.

Initially, the presidency attributed the suspension to a breakdown in the relationship between the prosecutions boss and former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla.

“One of the most painful parts of this saga was Mbeki’s sensitivity towards and intention not to impact negatively on the person and character of Pikoli as a child of the ANC,” Chikane explains in the book.

“He did not want us to say anything in public that was likely to produce this effect.

“In this regard, he advised us not to give details about the reasons for the suspension.”

Chikane, who worked with Selebi and Pikoli for 13 years in government, says the relationship between the two deteriorated in their last two years to a point where they began seeing each other as “enemies”.

Their battles were waged through the agencies under their command, he claims.

“There were reports, for instance, about them monitoring each other to find out what the other was doing. Firstly to defend themselves and, secondly, because they believed that the other was involved in either criminal activities or was compromised, or was simply caught in a web of intrigue with rogue national and international intelligence entities and criminal syndicates from the underworld.”

The former anti-apartheid activist and cleric says although there were delays in Selebi’s prosecution, Mbeki never said his police commissioner should not be arrested if there was evidence against him.

But the former president was “shocked” when he read a short memorandum from the prosecutions boss that explained he intended to strike a plea agreement with those accused of murder and drug trafficking to secure Selebi’s conviction, he writes.

“Pikoli insisted that that was the decision of the prosecuting authority and they had the power to do so.

“The president left us in the sitting room and went to his office, clearly incredulous and angry.

“But his anger was not about Selebi, as the popular view would have us believe.

“It was about the fact that a criminal gang would be let off the hook, simply to secure a charge against the national commissioner for a matter unrelated to the activities of the syndicate,” he claims.

When Mbeki returned to the room, he asked for two weeks to avoid instability, but Pikoli would not budge.

Although a commission of inquiry, headed by veteran politician Frene Ginwala, cleared Pikoli of any wrongdoing, he was ultimately removed from his position by then interim president Kgalema Motlanthe in 2008.

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