Mbeki wants proof of Heath’s ‘defamatory allegations’

2011-12-08 11:01

Former president Thabo Mbeki has demanded proof from government for “defamatory and malicious” allegations made by newly-appointed head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Willem Heath in City Press on Sunday.

Mbeki said he had avoided commenting on domestic politics, and it is with “great reluctance” that he is forced to comment on Heath’s allegations now.

Read the full statement: Mbeki responds to Heath

In an interview with City Press, he alleged that Mbeki had interfered in the justice system by “initiating” rape and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma in the run-up to the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference.

Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said in a statement this morning that Mbeki “rejects all the allegations advocate Heath made. They are devoid of all truth.”

These allegations were “very grave, more so because they are made by the head of the SIU, a critical organ of our criminal justice system and suggest illegal conduct on the part of the former head of state and government,” Ratshitanga said.

He also said that Heath, a former judge, “does not seem to have much regard for the decisions of the courts, except those with which he agrees”.

He said the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) had found no basis for the allegations of political interference on the part of Mbeki and the then cabinet in Zuma’s corruption case.

The court had ruled that “the allegations (of political interference) were irrelevant … gratuitous and based on suspicion and not fact”.

A legal representative of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation today approached the government “to provide evidence of all the allegations made by advocate Heath”, Ratshitanga said.

Mbeki also “notes comments attributed to President Zuma about advocate Heath insofar as they may relate to (Heath’s) comments about the former president”.

Zuma yesterday reportedly told Ukhozi FM that he would seek legal advice from Justice Minister Jeff Radebe about Heath’s statements.

Zuma would also investigate whether Heath held any grudges against anyone before deciding on any action.

Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj today confirmed Zuma’s statements but refused to say whether he would consider reversing Heath’s appointment. “It is a work in progress,” Maharaj said.

Heath told City Press that he was “most unhappy about the way in which I was treated and that I was left destitute”.

Heath, who headed the SIU at the time, was forced to step down as a judge in 2001 after the Constitutional Court ruled that a judge could not head an independent statutory body. Mbeki refused to grant him an early retirement, a decision that had left Heath a “pauper”.

Meanwhile, Heath told Eyewitness News on the sidelines of a corruption summit in Sandton this morning that he doesn’t “accept responsibility for the full report”.

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