Will Radebe rehire Heath?

2011-12-17 20:03

Embattled former Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Willem Heath may still be rehired as chief legal adviser to Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.

Heath, who resigned as Radebe’s special adviser when he was appointed SIU boss by President Jacob Zuma 20 days ago, stepped down this week after his position became “untenable”.

Two days after his appointment, Heath told City Press he still believed Zuma was the victim of a conspiracy, driven by former president Thabo Mbeki and former prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka.

Heath accused Mbeki of initiating rape and corruption charges against Zuma.

In a statement announcing Heath’s resignation, Radebe said:

 “We would like to thank Advocate Heath for showing maturity and appreciating that the manner in which events unfolded following his appointment created a perception, rightly or wrongly, that he would not be in a position to execute his duties in an independent manner.”

Radebe, a close ally of Zuma, hired Heath as his special legal adviser in 2009 after the national elections.
All ministers are entitled to appoint full-time advisers.

During the interview with City Press, Heath said: “I was approached by Radebe and appointed as special adviser.”

Heath earned a full-time monthly salary as Radebe’s legal adviser until his resignation at the end of November.

Asked whether Radebe would consider rehiring Heath as his legal adviser, Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, said the minister “still had to apply his mind”.

Radebe did not respond to specific questions by City Press asking him if he had interviewed Heath before appointing him in 2009; if he had known Heath’s views on Mbeki’s role in an anti-Zuma “conspiracy”; and whether he agreed with Heath that Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was jailed wrongly.

Tlali responded on Radebe’s behalf: “We issued media statements indicating that the comments Advocate Heath made with your newspaper on all matters you canvassed with him were made in his personal and not professional capacity.

“In other words, the comments he made are not binding on government as he did not make them in that capacity.

Based on this, it is our considered view that we cannot be drawn into commenting on views expressed by individuals in their private space and capacity.”

Tlali said the position of special adviser needed not be advertised. “The minister must still apply his mind whether he will reappoint Advocate Heath or someone else.”

Asked if Radebe would initiate steps or an investigation into Heath’s comments about “hiding” payments that “could be interpreted” as bribes on behalf of the late mining boss Brett Kebble, Tlali said:

 “If the behaviour of Advocate Heath with the Kebbles borders on criminal conduct, it is a matter that the law enforcement agencies with investigative mandate will make a call on.”

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