Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-15 Reporter: Sapa & Beeld Editor:

Maduna Says "No" to Heath

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-15
Reporter Sapa & Beeld
Web Link

Pretoria - Judge Willem Heath's special investigating unit should be excluded from a probe into alleged corruption in South Africa's R43 billion arms deal, Justice Minister Penuell Maduna recommended on Monday.

To continue referring new matters to the unit would fly in the face of a recent Constitutional Court judgment, Maduna said in Pretoria.

The court has ordered the appointment of a new head for the unit in a year's time, and stipulated that the new appointee could not be a judge.

In a letter he read to reporters, Maduna also told President Thabo Mbeki that he had received no information suggesting that there had been an unlawful appropriation of public funds or assets in the arms deal.

"I ... wish to advise the president that I am of the opinion that the matter should not, at this stage, be referred to the unit headed by Judge Heath, and that no other unit should be constituted for the purpose of pursuing this matter," Maduna said in the letter.

He sharply rejected assertions that Heath's participation was vital to unearth the truth about the arms deal.

"What Makes Him The Best?"

"What makes him [Heath] the best equipped man? I don't want to believe it's proper for anyone to regard themselves as completely indispensable," Maduna said.

Maduna's recommendation follows weeks of wrangling over whether or not the Heath Special Investigating Unit should be involved in the probe.

The Heath Unit Reports to the President

On Sunday, the African National Congress reiterated that it would oppose the appointment of 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".

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'."

A spokesman for the unit said Heath was out of the country on official business and would be back only on Thursday.

The spokesman said Heath had indicated that he alone would make public statements on this issue, and there would be no reaction before Thursday.

Heath Under Surveillance?

Meanwhile, 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.