Mbeki tirade puts Heath in Zuma’s firing line

Allegations made by Judge Willem Heath about former president Thabo Mbeki, and the way the arms deal investigation was handled, may yet cost President Jacob Zuma’s latest appointee his newly reacquired job as the head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

In an interview with City Press published on Sunday, Heath accused Mbeki of “initiating” rape and corruption charges against Zuma, who was then his closest rival for the ANC leadership, in 2005.

Heath also claimed convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik and senior ANC member Tony Yengeni were “sacrificed” in the arms deal investigation and that Judge Hilary Squires’ judgment in the Shaik corruption trial was flawed.

According to the report, Zuma told Ukhozi FM on Wednesday that Zuma would study the comments and seek legal advice from Justice Minister Jeff Radebe regarding Heath’s statements.

Zuma, who appointed Heath to lead the SIU last week, told the radio station he would look into whether Heath held “any grudges” against anyone before deciding on any action.

According the Times, Zuma’s move against Heath comes as internal complaints against Heath circulate among ANC members.

A senior ruling party member told the newspaper that Heath’s “factional” statements could cause further damage to the organisation.

The Democratic Alliance and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution have opposed Heath’s appointment.

Heath previously headed the SIU until 2001, when the Constitutional Court ruled that, as a judge, he could no longer run the unit, an independent statutory body.

Mbeki, who was president at the time, refused to grant Heath an early retirement package and he was forced to resign as a judge.

Last week, Heath told City Press that Mbeki’s decision had left him a “pauper”.

Heath conceded he was a Zuma supporter and believed his tribulations then were part of a conspiracy by the old ANC leadership.

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