New Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Willem Heath has accused former president Thabo Mbeki of “initiating” rape and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma, City Press reported on Sunday.
In an interview with the newspaper, Heath was quoted as saying that fraud convicts Shabir Shaik and Tony Yengeni were “sacrificed” in the arms deal investigation and that Mbeki “dictated” to the National Prosecuting Authority in Zuma’s rape trial.
He also said Judge Hilary Squires’ judgment in the Shaik corruption trial was flawed as there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict him.
Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga told the newspaper when approached for comment that the former president was abroad and was expected back next week.
“His office will study the article and quotations that will be attributed to Advocate Heath and determine whether, how and when to respond,” Ratshitanga was quoted saying.
Zuma was acquitted on rape charges in 2006 and the corruption charges were dropped in 2009.
Heath was appointed by Zuma in the past week to replace Willie Hofmeyr as the head of the SIU. Hofmeyr now only heads the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
Heath was first appointed by former president Nelson Mandela in 1996 to establish the SIU.
He however resigned in 2001 after the Constitutional Court found that a sitting judge could not head a long-term investigating unit.
Heath then set up Heath Executive Consultants, a firm offering legal advice and forensic investigation, but his most high-profile clients were those engaged in a protracted legal, political and media war with Mbeki and former prosecution boss Bulelani Ngcuka.
The newspaper also reported that Mbeki, who was president at the time, refused to grant Heath early retirement and as a result he had to resign as a judge — a decision that, according to Heath, left him a “pauper”.
Since Heath left the SIU unit in 2001 he hitched his fortunes to the anti-Mbeki camp, first by working for mining magnate Brett Kebble and then by adopting Zuma’s cause.
Mbeki made an enemy of Heath when the former president intervened to block the SIU’s involvement in the initial investigation of the arms deal. – Sapa and Staff reporter