A special parliamentary committee on Wednesday endorsed the dismissal of Vusi Pikoli because the national prosecutions chief had ”messed up”, chairperson Oupa Monareng said.
The committee’s decision brings the legislature one step closer to ratifying President Kgalema Motlanthe’s decision to fire Pikoli, but the former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head has signalled he will fight it in court.
Monareng told the South African Press Association: ”We supported the president’s decision because Pikoli had messed up in his duties as National Director of Public Prosecutions.
”He was clumsy and very unprofessional in his handling of especially the Browse Mole report,” he added, referring to an intelligence document that alleged African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma was receiving funds from Libya and Angola to overthrow Thabo Mbeki as president.
Monareng said the main reason for the ANC-led committee’s decision, however, was that it agreed with Motlanthe that Pikoli may have compromised national security.
At issue is an admission by Pikoli that he denied a request by Mbeki in September 2007 to wait a fortnight before arresting police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, offering a one-week delay instead.
The committee heard last month from Director General in the Presidency Frank Chikane that Mbeki suspended Pikoli as there was a risk that Selebi’s imminent arrest would destabilise South Africa.
Said Monareng: ”When you are the head of the NPA you must consider all aspects. He did not consider the request from the [justice] minister or the president.”
Pikoli has accused Mbeki and former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla of meddling in the Selebi case and insists that he was sidelined for political reasons.
The endorsement of Motlanthe’s decision to dismiss him nearly 18 months after he was first suspended by Mbeki was vehemently opposed by opposition MPs on the ad-hoc committee reviewing the matter.
Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party said the opposition was convinced that Pikoli should be reinstated, in line with the recommendations of the Ginwala inquiry last year.
”In our view the issue of national security is a smokescreen to justify the president’s decision to fire advocate Pikoli,” he said.
Monareng confirmed that he had refused a request by the opposition to table a minority report on the matter.
The committee’s report, which was adopted by 11 votes to five, will be tabled for a vote in the National Assembly on Thursday and is expected to clear its final hurdle in the National Council of Provinces next week.
Once the legislature approves the committee’s report, Motlanthe will be in a position to appoint a new prosecutions director, who will inherit responsibility for the protracted, politically sensitive corruption case against Zuma.
Pikoli has written to Motlanthe signalling his intention to take the matter to court and warned the president not to appoint a successor. — Sapa