Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2001-03-01 Reporter: Wyndham Hartley Editor:

Maduna "Unable" to Fire Heath

Publication  Business Day
Date 2001-03-01

Wyndham Hartley

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CAPE TOWN The head of the special investigating unit, Judge Willem Heath, was never asked to resign as a judge so he could continue to head SA's dedicated corruption-busting unit, Justice Minister Penuell Maduna said yesterday.

Maduna, who recommended to President Thabo Mbeki last month that the Heath unit should be excluded from the investigation into the R43bn arms deal, has introduced legislation in Parliament which would allow for someone other than a judge to head the unit, to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling.

Replying to questions in the National Assembly, Maduna said that he had never considered "firing" Heath as head of the unit because the power to do this did not reside with the justice minister but with the president.

Maduna said that he had "not now, not ever" had anything against Heath as a person.

In response to a question, Maduna said that when the constitutionality of a judge heading the unit was challenged in court, both the president and himself opposed the application by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Heath himself had not opposed the application, he said.

He said that the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Amendment Bill was needed because government had lost in the Constitutional Court and needed to make the law conform with the court's ruling.  

With acknowledgement to Wyndham Hartley and Business Day.