Pikoli defends himself before Parliament

Vusi Pikoli, with his career hanging by a trembling thread, gave a confident account of himself on Tuesday to the committee set up by Parliament to decide whether or not to endorse President Kgalema Motlanthe’s decision to sack him.

Pikoli, the national director of public prosecutions, insisted that the report of former speaker Frene Ginwala into his fitness to hold office vindicated his integrity.

“It was a vindication of the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority], and of all those prosecutors who report to me,” he said.
“It was also a vindication for the International Association of Prosecutors who has given me an award for prosecutorial independence while the commission was sitting.

“Ginwala found me a person of unimpeachable integrity.”

He added that in his letter of December 8 last year, President Motlanthe said that his professional competence was not in question. “This view of my integrity and competence leaves very little to establish that I am not a fit and proper person for office,” he said.

He received an almost instantaneous expression of support from the opposition members of the committee, led by the Inkatha Freedom Party chief whip Koos van der Merwe, who told Pikoli that he had been charged and found not guilty, and has refuted the five additional allegations made against him.

“I am of the opinion that we are sitting here today as window dressing,” Van der Merwe said, and he asked: “Who hates you so much that they want to get rid of you?”

Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats, said she thought he was being treated badly. “I think it is totally unfair,” she said.

In the public’s interest
However, the government members battered him with questions relating to the so-called “Browse Mole Report” which purported to give details of a plot to topple President Mbeki with the help of overseas governments. He also defended himself strongly, telling members that he had passed the report to the South African Secret Service.

“What else was I supposed to do?” he asked.

He also defended himself over charges that he had been careless of national security, saying that he was experienced in matters of security, though not an expert.

He was prominent in umKhonto weSizwe, and when returning from exile served on two commissions on the transformation of the intelligence services.

He also declared that he also pursued the public interest, but that it was in the public interest that the police national commissioner should not be in the pocket of criminals.

The co-chairperson of the committee, Oupa Monareng, tried to reassure him at the end of proceedings that there was no bias against him among members of the ANC. “It is not a fight between advocate Pikoli and the majority party,” he said.

Asked whether he really wanted his job back, or whether he was simply fighting to clear his name, Pikoli told the committee that he was not present to fight for himself.

“I am here to defend a principle,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about this constitutional thing.” He said the public must be able to trust the prosecuting authority, and it is about ensuring that the country’s powers have checks and balances.

The presidency—represented by the current Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development—will give evidence before the committee tomorrow.—I-Net Bridge

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