Zuma free to choose new NPA boss

President Jacob Zuma is not bound to wait for the outcome of Vusi Pikoli’s legal challenge to his dismissal as national prosecutions chief before appointing a successor, his office said on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesperson Thabo Masebe denied, however, that Zuma was about to fill the post, saying: “There is no decision.”

The presidency said in a statement that it wanted to correct inaccurate perceptions on the matter, including that it had agreed not to appoint a new national director of public prosecutions pending the outcome of the Pikoli case.

Pikoli insists that his dismissal by former president Kgalema Motlanthe last year was politically motivated and is challenging it in the North Gauteng High Court.

He won an undertaking while Motlanthe was still in office that the president would warn his lawyers should he move to fill the post.

Zuma’s office said he was therefore not obliged to wait for the high court ruling.

The instructing attorney in Pikoli’s case, Aslam Moosajee from Deneys Reitz, agreed that the presidency was obliged to give “reasonable notice” of any intention to appoint a new prosecutions chief.

He added, however, that if it did, the legal team would apply for an interim interdict to put the appointment on hold pending the outcome of the case.

Masebe said the presidency would stick to the agreement and inform Pikoli’s lawyers if Zuma planned to appoint somebody.

“If the president decides to appoint, we will give them reasonable notice so that they can decide what to do. If they decide to seek an interdict the president will defend himself.”

Pikoli was suspended by former president Thabo Mbeki in September 2007, and finally fired by Motlanthe in December last year for being insensitive to issues of national security.

Parliament ratified the decision in February amid bitter protest from the opposition, which said the legislature was rubberstamping an unfair dismissal.

In his statement, Zuma also said media reports that Mbeki had told the court he was advised by the National Security Council to suspend Pikoli were false.

“All he said was that he conferred with the National Security Council,” the presidency said.

Moosajee said it was difficult to say when the court ruling could be expected.

He said he was in the process of responding to affidavits from Motlanthe, Mbeki and his former director general in the presidency Frank Chikane, as well as former justice minister Enver Surty.

He expected to hand these to the court “in a few weeks” and would then request a hearing date for Pikoli’s application to have his dismissal set aside, he said.

Pikoli alleges that dismissal was partly a bid to halt the corruption case against Zuma, which was withdrawn by acting prosecution boss Mokotedi Mpshe in April, and to halt the prosecution of suspended national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.—Sapa

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