A vic­tory for democ­racy

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THE SAY­ING about old sins’ shad­ows comes to mind this week – an ex­tra­or­di­nary week for the coun­try’s jus­tice sys­tem. The Jackie Selebi saga, the oust­ing of Vusi Pikoli from the helm of the National Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, the de­par­ture of Judge Willem Heath – at the time a fierce critic of the arms deal, from head­ing the Heath Unit as the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit was known, the Gin­wala Com­mis­sion – all of these events are now his­tory and be­long to the Thabo Mbeki era.

Yet this week they were once more to the fore of pub­lic life. Heath, who had re­turned to pub­lic life as a staunch Ja­cob Zuma sup­porter, is again to take the helm of the SIU. A huge ques­tion mark hangs over the fu­ture of National Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions Menzi Simelane af­ter his ap­point­ment to this key post by Pres­i­dent Zuma was de­clared in- valid by the Supreme Court of Ap­peal.

And yes­ter­day came the news that former po­lice com­mis­sioner Selebi had lost his ap­peal and within hours had to re­port to au­thor­i­ties to serve his 15year jail term for cor­rup­tion for ac­cept­ing money and gifts from con­victed drug dealer Glen Agliotti.

These are tu­mul­tuous de­vel­op­ments.

Heath’s ap­point­ment has been met with con­cern that it rep­re­sents a strate­gic move by Zuma to shore up his po­si­tion with the state in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies.

The care­fully crafted rul­ing on Simelane is yet to be con­sid­ered by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court and it re­mains to be seen what the wider im­pli­ca­tions will be. Ul­ti­mately the rul­ing as­serts that not even the pres­i­dent is above the law, which de­rives ul­ti­mately from the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion.

As for Selebi, whose pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle to de- fend him­self has cost the tax­payer mil­lions of rands, few will feel any sym­pa­thy. He waged a tawdry turf war with the now-de­funct Scor­pi­ons, shame­lessly called upon po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions in the Mbeki govern­ment to shield him from jus­tice, and dragged the po­lice force into dis­re­pute. That this former In­ter­pol boss is now to serve a prison sen­tence is an­other illustration that even the most pow­er­ful in our coun­try should not think they are above the law. They are not, and this is a vic­tory for our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.