A friend in need is a friend indeed when elections draw near - Times LIVE
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A friend in need is a friend indeed when elections draw near

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2011-11-30 00:04:44.0
Willem Heath. File photo.
Image by: Muntu Vilakazi © Sunday Times.

The Times Editorial: As South Africa commemorated the second Black Tuesday yesterday - showing its disapproval of the Protection of State Information Bill - President Jacob Zuma dropped a bombshell by announcing the appointment of a close ally to a vital anti-corruption position.

The Presidency announced late yesterday afternoon that Willem Heath, an advocate who previously ran the Special Investigating Unit, would be returning to his old position, replacing Willie Hofmeyr.

It is perhaps the clearest indication that the president is gearing up for his party's elective conference in December next year in Mangaung by surrounding himself with those whom he feels he can trust implicitly.

Heath, after leaving the Special Investigating Unit in 2001, became one of Zuma's advisers during his corruption trial.

In fact, Heath also appeared to be a close associate of Brett Kebble, the mining magnate with close allies in the ruling party who was "assassinated" in 2005.

Systematically then, Zuma has rewarded those who openly stood with him during his fending off of graft accusations.

Most disconcerting about this survival strategy is that he is using state positions and resources to reward those who remained loyal to him.

This is highly inappropriate. Zuma should remember the Constitutional Court judgment in the Hugh Glenister case calling for an effective independent body to fight corruption.

Moreover, with Heath at the helm of the Special Investigating Unit, there should be extreme concern that Zuma might use the unit to fight his battles and instigate investigations against his political enemies.

The press release issued yesterday by Mac Maharaj, another loyalist and Zuma's chief spin doctor, does nothing to dispel cynical interpretation of the Heath appointment.

We should be concerned about what will follow yesterday's announcement. We need a fearless criminal justice sector - not jobs for pals.


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