Presidency Breaks its
Silence as DA urges 'Hesitant
The Democratic Alliance (DA) urged President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday to act decisively by allowing for the inclusion of the Heath Special Investigation Unit in the multi-agency team to probe the government's controversial R43 billion arms procurement deal.
The DA's call follows the Presidency's statement at the weekend that it had "taken note" of the various "representations and opinions" Mbeki has received on the issue of Judge Willem Heath and the arms deal probe.
It was the first official statement by Mbeki's office on the issue since a meeting between Mbeki and Heath in October last year. Since then, parliament's standing accounts committee has recommended a probe into the deal by a multi-agency team including Heath's unit, supported by loud calls from the DA and the Pan Africanist Congress, both of whom have accused the government of stalling on the matter.
Heath's participation in the probe requires on a presidential proclamation. It has also been complicated by a Constitutional Court ruling that a judge cannot head the Heath unit - but giving the government a year's grace to amend the relevant legislation to bring it in line with the Constitution.
The DA and the PAC have accused the government of using the ruling as an excuse for sidelining Heath.Frank Chikane, director-general in the Presidency, said in Friday's statement that Mbeki would consider the "representations and opinions . . . once recommendations have been received from the minister of justice and constitutional development in this regard.
"Thereafter the President will make a final determination on whether to issue a proclamation." Chikane said that Heath and Mbeki held discussions "regarding the reports the judge had received concerning the arms deal matter" at a meeting in October 2000. "Minister Erwin thereafter furnished Judge Heath with items that the judge had indicated to the President required further clarification.
"Judge Heath expressed his appreciation to the President, indicating that every time he met the President, he always got clear and candid answers to all his questions." The DA, however, continued with its criticism of Mbeki over the issue on Sunday, saying he was doing his utmost to achieve the title "The Hesitant President”.
"Hot on the heals of President Mbeki’s failure to take a clear and decisive stance on HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and “land grabbing” in Zimbabwe, he is now for some mysterious reason also stalling the process of appointing the proposed multi-agency committee to probe the alleged R43 billion misappropriated arms deal", the DA's Willem Odendaal said in a statement. "Without President Mbeki’s signature, there will be no proclamation for the inquiry into the arms deal to cont nue. Why not come clean if there is nothing to hide?",,WOZA reporter
With acknowledgement to Woza.