The African National Congress (ANC) has defended President Jacob Zuma's appointment of former Judge Willem Heath as the new chief of the Special Investigating Unit. This after Heath's startling comments in the City Press on Sunday. Among other claims, he accused President Thabo Mbeki of interfering in the work of the National Prosecution Authority (NPA). The Democratic Alliance (DA), which has questioned the appointment from the start, says it may challenge it in court.
After a decade, Willem Heath returns to public service as head of the institution he helped establish in 1996. But hardly a week in office, he's already embroiled in controversy. He made startling accusations in a weekend newspaper claiming former President Thabo Mbeki had a hand in President Zuma's rape trial five years ago. He accused Mbeki of dictating to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Since his appointment was announced, opposition parties had already raised similar concerns.
Heath's comments shows he's too risky to occupy a position of such power.
Heath assisted President Zuma in his corruption trial. In a frank admission, he says he got access to NPA tapes that led to the dropping of corruption charges against Zuma.
The DA says it has written to President Zuma requesting reasons for replacing Willie Hoffmeyer with Willem Heath. The party suspects that the president is trying to influence independent institutions. Congress of the People (COPE) say Heath's comments show he's too risky to occupy a position of such power.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu says: “We do not agree with those who say Judge Heath got the position because of his friendship with President Zuma. It doesn’t make sense. He got the position because he's got necessary capacity, people must look at this instead of throwing rumours that are unfounded."