Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-14 Reporter: Sapa & Beeld Editor:

"Heath Shouldn't Probe Arms Deal" - ANC

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-14
Reporter Sapa & Beeld
Web Link

The African National Congress on Sunday reiterated that it would oppose the appointment of Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Judge Willem Heath to probe the R43 billion arms deal. ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama told reporters at the four-day ANC national executive committee meeting in Kempton Park that the party was disturbed by Heath's relations with other political parties.

He said the issue was not discussed at the lekgotla, but that the ANC "remained highly concerned because Heath has been hobnobbing with other political parties". He said Heath had received the government's unqualified support when he was appointed head of the SIU. "The trust and confidence given to him was put to the test. He sees himself not as accountable to government," Ngonyama said.

This was in line with a statement Ngonyama made during a radio discussion earlier this week: "The view of the ANC is that we don't want Heath to be part of this probe. He has used the information he has obtained to lambaste the government and blackmail the government by saying that 'unless you put me to work, there is a cover up'." 

Justice Minister Penuell Maduna will on Monday announce his recommendations to President Thabo Mbeki regarding a request for a presidential proclamation to enable the unit to investigate the allegations. Maduna's recommendation to the president will probably be a definite indication of what President Thabo Mbeki's decision will be regarding this matter. The Heath Unit reports to the president.

Heath Under Surveillance?

While there will be more clarity on Monday regarding Heath's involvement or not in the arms deal probe, it was reported on Sunday that the judge may be under surveillance - "monitored and watched". The Sunday newspaper, Rapport, claimed that an "insider" in ANC circles said that Heath was being monitored and watched. 

It was not stated who was responsible for the alleged monitoring and watching. According to the newspaper, Heath said that he had a strong suspicion that he was being monitored and had asked that his telephones be checked.

By Sunday night, Heath could not be traced for further comment or confirmation of the report. Setsetse said in reaction to the alleged monitoring that the Minister of Justice's office had no knowledge at all of any such allegations.

The government has been under mounting pressure to include the SIU in the investigations and parliament has named the Heath unit as one of the four agencies that should conduct the probe. Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille handed documents relating to the alleged corruption to the Heath unit in November 1999. In October last year the unit formally applied for a proclamation. De Lille also passed on information pertaining to ANC politicians who allegedly received kickbacks from foreign arms consortiums. 

The unit's bid for involvement was bolstered by parliament's watchdog public accounts committee a month later, when it recommended that Judge Heath and several other agencies be involved in a multi-sectoral probe. 

With acknowledgement to Sapa, Beeld and News24.