Vusi Pikoli: Before he was No 1, Zuma was ‘the man’

2013-10-20 10:00

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Pikoli’s memoir reveals how Zuma camp put pressure on him

Long before those who claimed to be doing President Jacob Zuma’s bidding referred to him as Number One, they simply called him “the man”.

And several of these people, including senior ANC leaders, tried to find out if former prosecutions head Vusi Pikoli intended to charge Zuma with corruption.

This is one of the startling revelations contained in Pikoli’s memoirs, titled My Second Initiation, co-authored by him and journalist Mandy Wiener,

Pikoli writes that during the “period of my suspension I was approached by several people who said that ‘the man’ wanted to talk to me. I refused, of course, because I did not know what I would say to him.

“I can only imagine that Zuma wanted to meet with me to discuss his own pending (corruption) matter.”

The period that Pikoli was referring to was when he had been suspended by former President Thabo Mbeki in September 2007.

The Ginwala Commission of Inquiry, chaired by former parliamentary speaker Frene Ginwala, had found that Pikoli was not unfit for office.

Despite this finding, then president Kgalema Motlanthe, who had replaced Mbeki before Zuma took office, decided to fire Pikoli.

This decision was to be ratified by Parliament according to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act just a few months before Zuma became president.

Pikoli writes that “those in the Zuma camp said, ‘Look man, if you can just give us a guarantee that on reinstatement you will not bring charges against the man, then the matter is straightforward.’

“They said that even if (the Ginwala Inquiry) were to recommend I be fired and the matter went to Parliament, they would simply instruct MPs not to follow the recommendation.”

Pikoli writes that he was “surprised and disappointed” by Motlanthe’s decision, because he had expected to be reinstated based on Ginwala’s findings.

“I think it was a political decision that was more about Zuma than anything else at that stage. They could see I would not be pliable.”

Pikoli reveals that the people who approached him included provincial leaders of the ANC, a businessman from KwaZulu-Natal and a member of the Johannesburg Bar, who approached his adviser Kalyani Pillay.

The book also takes a revealing look at the high-stakes battle that went on behind the scenes between the NPA, the Scorpions and the police, headed by then national commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Pikoli writes that his view was that “the decision to disband the unit (was) aimed at protecting corrupt politicians”.

“If I had come into office as the NDPP (National Director of Public Prosecutions) in 2005 and announced that I was withdrawing (corruption) charges against (former Limpopo Premier Ngoako) Ramathlodi, not prosecuting Zuma, dropping charges against Travelgate MPs and would not oppose the appeal by Tony Yengeni, then I’m sure the Scorpions would still be alive today.”

Pikoli also writes that the greatest criticism of his term as the NDPP was the fact that he granted amnesties to Mikey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizal Smith, the men who shot mining magnate Brett Kebble.

He says that the NPA’s strategy was to use the testimony of the three against Glenn Agliotti in order to pressurise him to testify against Selebi.

“I accept that the greatest criticism of my tenure is that I allowed Kebble’s killers to go free, but what could possibly be worse than a national police commissioner who is a criminal himself: guilty of corruption and protecting criminals?

“We would never have been able to solve the Kebble murder were it not for those deals.”

Pikoli says the idea had always been to prosecute the kingpins who planned Kebble’s death – Agliotti and Clinton Nassif.

“We never envisaged that Agliotti would walk free.”

Pikoli points out that it was then acting NDPP Menzi Simelane’s decision to appoint a new prosecution team to the Agliotti matter.

“I have also always believed that the move was an intentional act of sabotage so that the prosecution would fail and fingers could again be pointed at me for having entered into plea bargain arrangements.”

The book also takes a behind-the-scenes look at Pikoli’s activism for the ANC in exile and his lifelong friendship with Sizwe Kondile.

Kondile disappeared from exile in Lesotho in 1981.

It was initially thought he was an ANC traitor, but it was subsequently revealed that Kondile had been captured by the police and was executed by the notorious Vlakplaas death squad.

According to testimony at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Kondile’s body was burnt on a fire while members of the Vlakplaas unit had a braai nearby.

» My Second Initiation by Mandy Wiener and Vusi Pikoli is published by Picador Africa, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. It is available at all good bookstores for a recommended retail price of R220 and on for R187 Vusi Pikoli

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