A victory for democracy
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.