Publication: Iafrica Issued: Date: 2001-03-08 Reporter: Editor:

Maduna, Heath Spat Continues

Publication  Iafrica
Date 2001-03-08
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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