Publication: Sunday Times Issued: Date: 2005-04-10 Reporter: Editorial Comment Reporter:

A Bad Precedent



Sunday Times




Editorial Comment

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When President Thabo Mbeki last month appointed a high court judge to investigate and make a decision on the future of the Scorpions there was a general sigh of relief because there had been so much speculation and uneasiness about the fate of the elite investigative unit.

But the uneasiness only deepened when it turned out that Judge Sisi Khampepe who had been appointed to carry out the task was the wife of businessman Siza Khampepe, the director of Kgorong Investment Holdings, which got a R220-million slice of the controversial arms deal.

One of Siza Khampepe's business partners in Kgorong is Julekha Mohamed, a very close associate of brothers Schabir and Chippy Shaik and a former legal adviser to Deputy President Jacob Zuma all sworn enemies of the Scorpions.

It is against this background, therefore, that the inevitable question arises: is the appointment of the judge, who is so close to a beneficiary of the arms deal, not a blatant example of a conflict of interest?

Was due thought applied to the matter before she was appointed? No one doubts her integrity and credentials. It is her closeness to the fire, so to speak, that raises these questions.

If this is not an instance of conflict of interest, then when does real conflict of interest manifest itself? If the government sticks to its guns, as spokesmen have indicated it will do, it will be setting a bad precedent.

With acknowledgement to the Sunday Times.