Mixed reaction to Heath resignation

2011-12-15 22:33

Johannesburg - There was mixed reaction from political parties on Thursday over the resignation of newly-appointed special investigating unit (SIU) head Willem Heath.

The ANC said it was "regrettable" that Heath had to resign shortly after his appointment.

"In terms of his experience he would have served South Africa better," ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said.

"We [ANC], however, accept the resignation because of the unfortunate statement he made [regarding former president Thabo Mbeki], which raised many issues, which were taking focus away from the work he was supposed to do."

The DA said Heath proved he was "politically tainted" and a supporter of President Jacob Zuma.


"This is unacceptable for someone in that position, as it is vital that in often-sensitive investigations, people must be treated equally and impartially," DA MP Debbie Schafer said in a statement.

"There would have been no public confidence if Heath was using his position to promote the interests of an ANC faction."

Heath had compromised the integrity of the SIU and resigning was the right thing to do, said Schafer.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said Heath handed in his written resignation on Wednesday and Zuma accepted it.

The Inkatha Freedom Party said although it welcomed Heath's appointment in November, it was "mindful" of the "substantial political baggage" he brought with him because of his relationship with Zuma.

"Unfortunately, the storm that erupted following Advocate Heath's attack on former president Thabo Mbeki, made him no longer suitable to lead the SIU - a position that requires complete impartiality," IFP MP Velaphi Ndlovu said in a statement.

"We were disappointed to see that when he assumed the role, he immediately started acting like a politician, instead of an independent crime-fighting boss."


Former national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, commended Heath, saying the move was in the best interests of the country and the SIU.

"It was the right thing to do for the president [Zuma] and the minister of justice [Radebe] to prevail on the matter, as it would have been indeed untenable for Advocate Heath to continue as the head of the SIU," he said in a statement.

By Thursday evening, Heath himself could not be reached for comment.

Last week, Zuma asked Radebe to help his office probe Heath's accusations against Mbeki. Heath told the City Press newspaper earlier this month that Mbeki had allegedly initiated rape and corruption charges against Zuma. He claimed Mbeki abused his position by blocking some investigations into corrupt practices.

Heath, whose appointment as SIU head was announced on November 29, expressed gratitude to Zuma and Radebe for showing confidence in him by giving him the job.

Zuma was taking steps to fill the vacancy. In the interim he appointed advocate Nomgcobo Jiba as acting SIU head.

Heath replaced Willie Hofmeyr as SIU head. He was first appointed by former president Nelson Mandela in 1996 to establish the SIU.

Heath, however, resigned in 2001 after the Constitutional Court found a sitting judge could not head a long-term investigating unit.

The City Press reported that Mbeki, who was president at the time, refused to grant Heath an early retirement. As a result he had to resign, a decision that, according to Heath, left him a "pauper".

  • Alva - 2011-12-15 22:58

    He came, he stirred, he resigned!

  • Gollum - 2011-12-15 22:58

    I doubt if the next one to ba appointed will be any less biased but they'll have the common sense to keep it under wraps better. It just showed how the government will appoint yes-boys to watchdog positions.

  • johnmartinbradley - 2011-12-15 23:28

    He's not biased. The reason he was no doubt forced to resign was because too many people were scared witless of what he would uncover. All this nonsense about being in the ANC camp is ridiculous. He is actually a DA supporter. His habit of speaking what he believes to be the truth has got him in hot water.

      Deeteem - 2011-12-16 04:44

      John, I think you are looking at this through rose tinted glasses !!

      George - 2011-12-16 05:07

      @ johnmartinbradley, Any high profile buisness person or any intelegent person knows when to talk and when to shut up and when to listen. knowledge is power, use it when you need to not to brag about. He was in a position of trust and started off with a big mouth

  • Serame - 2011-12-15 23:41

    Thank God for the resignation....He has strong legal backgound nad shud hav known better about baseless statements on public domain.He's claerly an Ally to JZ..I guess there is something lined up for him BY jz..

  • Malcolm - 2011-12-16 07:32

    Oh, what a dissapointment Heath has been. Just when we thought he was the right person to control the theft in government.

  • danie.dewaal - 2011-12-16 07:38

    We all make mistakes, resigning was the honourable and right thing to do.

      Anthony - 2011-12-16 08:40

      now lets hope the rest of the government follow

  • edward.d.beesley - 2011-12-16 07:53

    Foot in mouth is an incurable disease.

  • Chris - 2011-12-16 09:00

    He did the right thing as would anyone with a shred of personal and professional integrity. In the wake of the judicial ruling questioning his appointment, Simelane should resign as well. But as I say, if he has a shred of inegrity.

  • Craig - 2011-12-16 09:55

    He resigned or he was told to resign?

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