Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla’s order that prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli not proceed with the prosecution of police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi so that she could get more information on the matter was a criminal instruction, Pikoli’s lawyer Wim Trengove said on Friday.
”That is an unexplained event. It is unconstitutional and unlawful. It is, in fact, a criminal instruction in terms of the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] Act,” said Trengove.
In the closing arguments of the hearing into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office, Trengove said there had never been a complaint against Pikoli since he took office in early 2005.
Trengove said that after Pikoli informed President Thabo Mbeki that he had secured a search and arrest warrant against Selebi, the two parted without any discord, except they had not agreed on when Pikoli would execute the warrant.
Mbeki then wrote to Mabandla asking for further details of the plans to arrest and prosecute so that he could create an enabling national security environment, given Selebi’s position.
”But she [Mabandla] does something completely different,” said Trengove at the closing arguments at the inquiry into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office.
She asked for all the evidence against Selebi over the previous 18 months and told Pikoli not to proceed with the prosecution of Selebi, he said, recapping on information presented at the inquiry.
Pikoli wrote back to her saying this would be in breach of the NPA Act and, argued Trengove, this was when a ”rupture” occurred. In a subsequent letter to Pikoli, she did not clarify or retract any of those requests, said Trengove.
”We simply don’t know how this came about because the minister has never explained it to us; only she can,” he said. ”What we do know is that this was the beginning of the end.”
Trengove said it was clear from the timeline of events that the Selebi investigation was the reason for Pikoli’s suspension. He said the government then went on to put out a ”false” statement on his suspension, saying it was due to an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between Pikoli and Mabandla.
On his suspension, Pikoli told Mabandla that it was not true that there was no trust between them and she did not contradict him, Trengove submitted.
His letter of suspension cited the breakdown and his testimony to the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into the Scorpions. Pikoli did not regard these charges as genuine and stuck to his belief that the action agains him was to stop or frustrate the arrest of Selebi.
”The person who can refute that charge is the minister and only the minister: but she doesn’t come [to the inquiry],” said Trengove.
Firing Pikoli would create ”a great injustice and incalculable damage”, he argued.
”It would be an unforgivable injustice to a good man. He is one of our best; we are privileged to have public servants of the calibre of Mr Pikoli. It will be highly unjust to dismiss him,” he said, adding that the consequences would have a ”devastating impact” on his successor’s ability to work ”without fear or favour”.
He said the government had provided a ”hodge-podge” of miscellaneous complaints and that the inquiry was the product of the ”improper conduct of government”.
Complaints were raised about the period before Pikoli took office and after he was suspended, Trengove charged.
The complaint that he did not consider national security by disagreeing about the two weeks Mbeki needed before the planned Selebi action was mentioned for the first time at the start of hearing, he said.
He submitted that the charges were unfounded and said the only person who could clarify matters and prove that there was a case was Mabandla.
”Where is she?” he asked. — Sapa