Lawyers condemn Heath’s allegations

2011-12-09 12:52

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) has condemned comments made by Special Investigating Unit (SIU) boss Willem Heath in an interview with City Press, saying they showed “a lack of conscientiousness and integrity required of [the SIU]”.

In the interview with City Press on Sunday, Heath, who replaced Willie Hofmeyr as head of the SIU last week, said former President Thabo Mbeki had initiated rape and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.

Nadel said these comments showed a lack of appreciation for provisions of the Special Investigating Unit Act, which require the president to appoint a fit and proper person to head the unit, based on their “experience, conscientiousness and integrity”.

The organisation said it found Heath’s comments about Mbeki “particularly disturbing” because they “adversely reflect on the integrity and credibility of a former head of state”.

Mbeki has since rejected what he called Heath’s “defamatory” statements, and asked government for evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.

In the interview, Heath said that he disagreed with the judgment of Judge Hillary Squires in the corruption case against Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s former financial adviser, because he didn’t think “sufficient evidence” was submitted to the court.

Nadel said this “impacts negatively upon a judicial process” and has the “tendency to lower the public confidence in the legal system”.

Nadel called on Heath to apologise and retract his comments, adding that it would wait to see what action Zuma took.

Zuma on Wednesday announced that he would “investigate” Heath’s comments.

Appointments by Zuma have frequently played out in the courts, with the Supreme Court of Appeal declaring the appointment of Menzi Simelane as National Director of Public Prosecutions invalid last week.

An attempt by Zuma to extend former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term was also opposed in the Constitutional Court.

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