Editorial: Politicking among police

Concerns over the politicisation of the criminal justice system were first raised over the Mbeki administration's investigation of Jacob Zuma.

Now, under a Zuma presidency, concern has congealed into dread as his appointments to the prosecution service have injected political poison into the state's most sensitive independent organs.

First came the appointment of the hopelessly compromised Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions. Then came Willem Heath's return to the Special Investigating Unit. His political agenda was so transparent he blurted it out in the media and had to go.

Next was Lawrence Mrwebi, chosen to head the Specialised Commercial Crime unit. Mrwebi is a fallible man who had been deeply embroiled in efforts to shut down the Scorpions.

In December last year, when Simelane was beginning to test his leash, the Supreme Court of Appeal declared his appointment invalid, allowing Zuma to appoint a stand-in candidate arguably as deeply partial as Heath: Nomgcobo Jiba.

In 2007 Jiba was suspended for her role in trying to procure the arrest of then-Gauteng Scorpions boss Gerrie Nel. Richard Mdluli came to her defence, alleging she had been assisting police with an intelligence-driven investigation of the Scorpions. The justice minister weighed in to query her case and after Zuma took power she was reinstated.

Since December last year, Jiba and Mrwebi have acted like a tag team to take on politically sensitive cases. In the Mdluli case, Mrwebi ordered the withdrawal of fraud charges, relying, in part, on undisclosed "intelligence".

Jiba followed that punch with the suspension of prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who wanted to pursue charges against Mdluli and was central to a politically sensitive investigation of alleged fraud in the acquisition of mining rights at Sishen. Next came the withdrawal of charges against Zuma backers and KwaZulu-Natal MECs Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni in the "amigos" corruption case.

Today we report on further damaging allegations of Mrwebi's meddling in a case whose implications are as yet obscure. All we know is the man Mrwebi allegedly tried to protect is someone whose business it was to know the dirty secrets of the National Prosecuting Authority's provincial office.

The poison is now at the heart of the system.

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