Publication: Business Day Date: 2005-04-06 Reporter: Editorial Reporter:

Conflicts and Interests



Business Day





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The appointment of Justice Sisi Khampepe as the single arbiter of the future of the Scorpions has hit a major snag even before the investigation has begun in earnest. The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Khampepe’s husband Siza has business links with Julekha Mahomed, who is legal adviser to Deputy President Jacob Zuma and to several companies involving Shaik family members.

Given that Schabir Shaik is involved in a high-profile case brought by the Scorpions and that the case involves Shaik’s relationship with Zuma, it’s hard to imagine anyone with a more hostile prejudice against the Scorpions than the Shaik family. Mahomed clearly sided with the Shaiks by appearing in the case as a defence witness.

But is this a real or merely a perceived conflict of interest? It appears none of the companies in which Khampepe is involved is currently under investigation by the Scorpions. The argument that there is a conflict is based in part merely on the fact that Khampepe is a co- director with Mahomed in several business enterprises.

The problem is that one of these business enterprises is Kgorong Investment Holdings, a partner of Reutech Radar Systems, a company that was awarded a multimillion-rand contract under the controversial arms deal. The investigation of contracts involved in the arms deal has been one of the Scorpions’ major efforts, and the Shaik case is in part a result of these investigations. The fact that Khampepe is a co- director with Mahomed aside, the simple fact that there is a link with the arms deal must surely make things a little too close for comfort.

Judge Khampepe will have to follow her conscience here. If she truly believes she can be impartial in these circumstances, then well and good. Frankly we just can’t see how it would be possible to do so.

But actually the problem lies as much with her appointment as with her continued participation. President Thabo Mbeki’s office claims the issue is one of integrity and Khampepe’s integrity is unimpeachable. Unfortunately it goes further than that. Ethical codes around the world often require not only actual impartiality but also the perception of impartiality, for the simple reason that the whole effort is undermined by the perception of impartiality, even if there is in reality no conflict of interest.

It is not sufficient for Khampepe to be impartial ­ she must be perceived as impartial too, just as justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

With ackowledgements to Business Day.