Mbeki Excludes Heath from Arms Deal Investigation
President Thabo Mbeki has just announced his decision not to include Judge Willem Heath's unit in the investigations into the arms deal.
The President has in effect followed the advice of his justice minister Penuell Maduna who issued a statement on the 15th of January explaining why Heath's request for a proclamation should be denied.
Maduna based his recommendations on a recent Constitutional Court decision in which the court held that it is not in the constitution for a judge to play the roles envisaged in the Act.
The Constitutional Court gave the government a period of one year within which to amend the legislation in order to facilitate a smooth and orderly transfer of the powers of the Heath Unit to a functionary who is not a member of the judiciary.
The inclusion of Judge Willem Heath in the investigations of corruption in the Arms Procurement package has sparked a bitter dispute between those who believe he should be excluded and those who say his participation is essential to a credible outcome of the investigations.
Those who say he should be included argue that his reputation is impeccable and that his Unit has certain investigative powers not available to other bodies already involved in the investigations. The also say that if there is nothing to hide then there should be no reason for his exclusion.
The arguments against Heath's participation in the investigation centre around the perception that he is fundamentally ANC. It has been pointed out that the other bodies involved in the investigations are perfectly capable of achieving their goals without the Heath Unit.
The Arms Procurement package has provoked the anger of opponents who believe that South Africa has no need of very expensive sophisticated weapons. They believe that funds should rather be channeled to social upliftment programmes.
The package has also been the focus of a number of allegations of corruption. Patricia de Lille, PAC member of parliament, has publicly challenged senior members of government about their involvement in counter-trade agreements that were negotiated in conjunction with the arms procurement.
Meanwhile, the Heath Investigative Unit's spokesperson, Guy Rich, says Judge Willem Heath has no intention of reacting to the presidential announcement that he will not participate in the arms deal investigation.
With acknowledgement to SABC News.