Mbeki approves terms for Pikoli inquiry

Whether suspended National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli had taken “national security interests” into consideration in decisions he made will be one of the main issues in a hearing to determine his fitness to hold office.

President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday approved the terms of reference for the inquiry into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said.

The terms of reference cover two broad areas: the fitness of Pikoli to hold office and the breakdown of the working relationship between him and Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Bridgette Mabandla.

The terms question whether Pikoli, when deciding to prosecute offenders, sufficiently regarded “the nature and extent of the threats posed by organised crime to the national security of the republic”.

They also question whether Pikoli, when he granted immunity from prosecution or entered into plea-bargain arrangements with people involved with organised crime, regarded “public interests and the national security interest”.

Maseko said Mabandla will testify on behalf of the government at the hearings, giving examples where she thought Pikoli “failed to apply his mind”.

“Certain deals were struck not taking into account national security considerations,” Maseko said, adding that these were deals with people who were apprehended by the Scorpions or the National Prosecuting Authority, but who then provided information to the investigators in terms of a deal with the authorities.

He did not want to mention any specific examples.

Maseko said former parliamentary speaker Frene Ginwala, who will lead the inquiry, will determine its rules and location. At the end of the inquiry, Ginwala will submit a report to Mbeki, who will then decide how and when to make the findings public.
She is scheduled to address the media on Thursday.

Maseko said it is not clear whether Mbeki will testify at the hearing, and said Ginwala will not have the power to subpoena people to appear.

Should the president decide to fire Pikoli, on the basis of the outcome of the inquiry, he would need Parliament’s approval.

There has been much speculation in the media around the reason for the suspension last week of Pikoli—due to an “irretrievable breakdown” in the relationship between him and Mabandla, according to the government.

Some reports have suggested that Pikoli was dismissed after issuing an arrest warrant for police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi based on the police chief’s alleged ties to criminal syndicates.

The Mail & Guardian has reported that Pikoli’s failure to give his political superiors full details of the investigation into Selebi—and possibly of Selebi’s planned arrest—led to his suspension, according to a range of official sources.

The M&G first revealed Selebi’s links to organised crime figures, and the Scorpions’ investigation into these links, in May last year.

The Democratic Alliance has said it will ask President Thabo Mbeki questions in Parliament relating to Pikoli’s suspension.

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