Maduna, Heath Spat Continues
Justice Minister Penuell Maduna has rejected
comments attributed to former Special Investigating Unit head Judge Willem Heath
accusing the government of sabotaging the unit.
Maduna said in a statement that Heath made the
accusation during an interview with the SABC yesterday, where he was quoted as
saying that since Maduna took over the portfolio, little or nothing was referred
to the unit. A transcript of the interview quoted Heath as having said:
"...we were actually sort of sabotaged by not receiving proclamations. And
then of course the impact of our credibility in the eyes of the public, and we
have explained to them it is not our fault, proclamations have not been issued
to us. Then eventually the public adopt the attitude that no cases will be
investigated because we were not given proclamations."
Describing the allegation as "far
fetched", Maduna questioned the possibility of the government establishing
such a unit and then turning around and sabotaging its very existence. "It
will be something ludicrous indeed for any sober-minded person to do. As the
ministry responsible for the smooth functioning of the unit, I am
surprised," he said.
The ministry had always committed itself to the
SIU's work and the government had at one stage defended its existence during a
legal challenge by some attorneys on its constitutionality, Maduna said.
He said the government was under no obligation to
refer each case to the SIU for investigations. There were other agencies in
place, including the Auditor-General and the Public Protector who could also
investigate similar cases. "The question whether to refer a new case to the
unit or not was in terms of the... President's discretion," he said, adding
the allegations puzzled him.
But Heath said last night that proclamations had
in fact been kept from the SIU. "On occasion the minister had personally
refused to refer matters to the President. Although cases fell within our range
he would say he was referring the matter to the Scorpions."
Heath said Maduna had written a letter to him
saying that no further cases would be referred to his unit. He said the unit's
future was placed at stake because no cases were referred to it. "It is
simply not true that cases were being referred to us."
With acknowledgment to iafrica.com.