Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-18 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Mbeki Still Undecided on Probe 

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-18
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

Pretoria - President Thabo Mbeki was on Thursday still considering whether or not the Heath investigating unit should help probe South Africa's R43-billion arms deal, the presidency said on Thursday.

"No announcement will be made on Thursday," presidential spokesperson Nazeem Mahatey told Sapa in Pretoria.

He said Mbeki had received representations on the matter from all four investigation agencies which were nominated by Parliament's public accounts committee to probe the arms deal.

"The president is studying all the information," Mahatey said.

Mbeki on Tuesday asked the auditor general, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Public Protector, and the Heath special investigating unit for more information. They were given until Wednesday to do so.

The special investigating unit headed by Judge Willem Heath confirmed that it had made its submission.

"We faxed it to the president on Wednesday," spokesperson Naomi Goodly said on Thursday. "So far we have had no feedback."

Mahatey on Wednesday indicated Mbeki might announce on Thursday whether he agreed that the Heath unit be excluded from the probe. Initial expectations were that the president might make his decision known as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Justice Minister Penuell Maduna on Monday advised Mbeki not to issue a proclamation enabling the Heath unit to take part in the inquiry into allegations of corruption in the arms procurement deal.

Among others, he cited a recent Constitutional Court ruling that Heath's position as head of the unit was unconstitutional.

Referring new cases to the unit would fly in the face of the court judgment, Maduna said, adding that other agencies were equipped to handle the probe without the Heath unit

The Heath unit contended that the ruling did not prohibit it from undertaking new investigations.

Maduna's recommendation provoked outrage from opposition parties, which warned that the exclusion of the Heath unit would damage the credibility of the probe.

The Democratic Alliance on Thursday urged the Speaker of Parliament, Frene Ginwala, to impress on Mbeki not to ignore the wishes of the public accounts committee that the Heath unit be included in the probe.

It was quite clear that the National Assembly had accepted the committee's report on the matter, DA spokesperson Douglas Gibson said.

"The unanimous resolution of Parliament should weigh heavily with the president and the executive," Gibson said.

With acknowledgement to Sapa and News24.