Pikoli affair

2008-05-10 00:00

IN September last year, citing the breakdown in the working relationship between National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli and Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla as his primary reason, President Thabo Mbeki suspended Pikoli. This week a commission headed by former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala opened its inquiry into the matter.

In the meantime, there has been much speculation about other reasons for Mbeki’s action. Pikoli himself contends that the real intention was to “put a spoke in the wheel” of his investigation of national police chief Jackie Selebi and that Mabandla’s instruction to him not to pursue warrants for Selebi’s arrest was unconstitutional.

Under the Constitution, the role of Pikoli’s directorate is the prosecution of crime and when he found cause to proceed against the top police officer in the country, he correctly reported this to the Minister of Justice. She in turn took the matter to the president and Pikoli was suspended.

If Pikoli is right in believing that the move was meant to protect Selebi (since charged with corruption), further questions arise. It has been suggested that in the run-up to Polokwane, Mbeki saw Selebi as an important ally in the ANC leadership struggle. The idea that the president might interfere in the legitimate activities of the national prosecuting authority in order to further his personal political interests is outrageous, but Mbeki has a growing reputation for denialism, obfuscation and intervention that does not further the interests of the nation. It must be hoped that Pikoli will not give in to the rumoured pressure on him to pre-empt the Ginwala Commission by resigning and that the full truth of the matter will soon emerge.

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