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Sun Nov 23 02:55:16 SAST 2014

Top crime fighters must be allowed their independence

The Times Editorial | 26 February, 2013 00:35

The Times Editorial: Jeff Radebe is saying all the right things about fighting corruption.

In addition to committing the government to ''naming and shaming'' public servants who are guilty of graft (not to mention vigorously prosecuting them and seizing their assets) the justice minister has pledged to expedite the filling of two key positions in the state's arsenal against organised crime - those of the head of the Special Investigating Unit and of the National Prosecuting Authority.

The SIU, an independent statutory body, has been rudderless since Judge Willem Heath was forced to step down in December 2011 - a month after his appointment - following his embarrassing tirade against former president Thabo Mbeki.

Heath, who was part of the team that helped President Jacob Zuma get his corruption case quashed, had replaced the highly regarded Willie Hofmeyr, an ANC man whom some party insiders believed was in the wrong camp.

The fact that Hofymeyr was a hugely successful SIU head does not appear to have registered with Zuma, who replaced him.

The other, even more important, post that Radebe has promised to fill ''soon'' is that of the national director of public prosecutions.

The post of NPA chief has been something of a poisoned chalice, its incumbents becoming ensnared in ANC factional politics - centring often around Zuma - virtually from the outset. After Bulelani Ngcuka bit the dust it was the turn of the too independent-minded Vusi Pikoli, who dared stand up to a meddling justice minister.

Pikoli's replacement, the compliant Menzi Simelane, was forced out of the job late last year when our highest court confirmed a judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal that his appointment, by Zuma, was invalid.

It is to be hoped that Zuma and the ruling party have finally got their heads around the fact that the heads of the NPA and SIU are bound by the constitution to act independently, without fear or favour.

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