Heath Fears for his Safety
East London - Justice
Willem Heath fears for his and his family's safety. He is convinced he is being
followed, and has doubts about how secure his private telephone calls are, he
said on Thursday during an interview in his partially-cleared office at the
Special Investigation Unit.
He has made a point of
not making telephone calls from his office, and he no longer has his own
cellphone. Since the beginning of January he has changed his home telephone
number "for security reasons".
The last few months
have been a period of disappointment and worry for him. The 56-year-old judge
went on long leave at the beginning of last month after the Constitutional Court
decided that a judge may not head a special investigation unit.
The judge said he had
received information that he was being followed in December, January and
February. During his recent visit to Kenya it became clear to him that he was
being followed "all the time".
He said "Yes, I
am worried about my and my family's safety. My wife is also very concerned about
my safety. There is actually nothing one can do about it. The minister (Penuell
Maduna) said in a statement yesterday that I should lay charges at the police.
Everything is so vague that there is no specific evidence to present to the
'I Will Not be Intimidated'
"I have had calls
from people, and members of the unit have told me I am being followed. In Kenya
it was done openly. However, I will not allow myself to be intimidated."
Heath said he was
extremely disappointed that the special investigation unit had not received
support rather than the "attacks that have been launched against us".
He said similar units
in other countries enjoyed a lot of support. "It is our viewpoint that the
unit is not political - it is the politicians that have politicised it."
Heath gave as an
example the arms procurement deal, concerning which he was approached on several
occasions by the media for comment. "This led to me being attacked on a
He said the Special
Investigation Unit had recovered about R2 billion in state assets. This would
have been higher if the president had signed more proclamations for the unit to
"Since 1999 there
have been very few proclamations." There were a few amendments to
proclamations which had been requested by the unit. "Effectively there were
no proclamations, with the result that the unit did not recover nearly as much
during the last financial year."
Bigger Budget Would Have Paid Off
It has been claimed
that the unit is overloaded with work. According to Heath there is a simple
solution - the unit should have had a bigger budget so it could expand its work.
"The government would have got back every cent, and more."
As to whether he would stay on as head of the SIU, he said this would only be possible if there was a change to the appropriate legislation and to the Constitution. "I have now learnt my lesson as to how sensitive the unit's position is as a result of gaps in the legislation."
corruption is rampant. There was a time when the effectiveness of the unit
served as a deterrent, as corruption was exposed.
"For years there
was a feeling that people could get away with corruption. For a few years this
was exposed and corruption decreased, but now things are going back to the bad
old days," said Heath.
With acknowledgment to Marelize Stiemie and News24.