JACOB Zuma loyalist Willem Heath, an erstwhile confidant of slain mining magnate Brett Kebble, was no sooner appointed – controversially – to head the Special Inves- tigating Unit (SIU) than he was the centre of more controversy. This was occasioned by comments Heath reportedly made to a Sunday newspaper about the role he alleged was played by former President Thabo Mbeki in getting the then-prosecuting authorities to investigate and prosecute Zuma.
Now Zuma is said to be seeking the advice of his justice minister, Jeff Radebe, over the suitability of Advocate Heath to fill the position of SIU head.
The country has the right to ask what on earth the president – and for that matter Radebe – thinks he is doing and why it is that he makes so many serious blunders in the sensitive arena of legal affairs.
Zuma and his advisers appear to have not re- alised that in terms of our laws the president has to be able to provide sound reasons for replacing the head of the SIU. The public has no clue as to what led Zuma to remove Willie Hofmeyr, who on the face of it seemed to be doing a fine job of tackling corruption in government departments and agencies.
DA leader Helen Zille is quite right to have asked Zuma to provide his reasons.
Now views have been expressed that Heath is in fact too old to take this job since the Public Service Act sets the age of retirement at 65. There are also concerns that he will be allowed to retain directorship of his private investigations consultancy with the potential for conflicts of interest.
This is not the first time Zuma has made such a blunder. There was the debacle of trying to extend the term of office of the Chief Justice, followed by a row over the suitability of his new candidate for Chief Justice. More recently Zuma and Radebe were slapped down by the Supreme Court of Appeal over the appointment of Menzi Simelane as Nation- al Director of Public Prosecutions.
We fear that the appointment of Heath might well be another case where the president ends up
with egg on his face.