Parliament Missed the Chance to Shed 'Rubberstamp' Image in Pikoli Hearings

Cape Times (South Africa), February 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

Parliament Missed the Chance to Shed 'Rubberstamp' Image in Pikoli Hearings


BYLINE: Christi van der Westhuizen

If ever there were a matter with which parliament could shrug off the epithet of "rubberstamp", it is the consideration of President Kgalema Motlanthe's recommendation that national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Vusi Pikoli be fired - unprecedented in the life of our nascent democracy.

It is another low point in a political drama which has been fraught with attacks on our constitutional underpinnings.

Which is why it should be distressing to all to hear ANC MP Oupa Monareng declare that the principle of equality before the law is "hypothetical", as he recently stated as chairperson of the parliamentary ad hoc committee tasked with the Pikoli matter.

He could surely not believe this, having been unable to escape prosecution after attempting to bribe police officers who caught him driving a stolen vehicle in 1996.

Similarly distressing should be ANC MP Butana Khompela's statement to Pikoli during the committee meetings in the second half of January that the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is "periphery (sic) stuff".

The NPA, according to Khompela, is not a "technical thing that has verbose (sic) autonomy. Autonomy can't run amok (sic) ... The NPA is operating in a political environment. If the NPA tramples on the toes of this environment, its powers will be diminished".

It could not have been stated more bluntly. Diminishing the powers of our national criminal prosecutions body is indeed the exercise that parliament has been engaged in, at the behest of the post-Polokwane ANC leadership. The first step was the excision of the Scorpions. The second is ridding the NPA of a good comrade "gone wrong".

Pikoli has served in various capacities without controversy. Little did the powers-that-be know that he would take his constitutionally assigned duties as national director of public prosecutions seriously enough to stand up even to the president, as he was fated to do with the corruption case against national police chief Jackie Selebi.

Khompela's slippage aside, the ruling party is sticking to its guns that Pikoli does not possess sufficient "sensitivity" to national security and should go.

National security is a convenient ruse with which rulers explain things away. Measured against the definition of the term in section 198 of the Constitution, it is hard to see how Pikoli could be guilty.

But, while dismissing most of the presidency's ever-changing list of accusations against Pikoli, Frene Ginwala's inquiry found that his suspension would have been legitimate if the motivation given had been insensitivity to national security. Motlanthe latched on to this.

Presidency director-general Frank Chikane repeated this argument to the committee, describing Pikoli as defying the president, who can access all intelligence and therefore was "the only person" who could "make a decision about the security arrangements" for Selebi's arrest.

There was "great risk" of the country being destabilised, but this intelligence could not be made public "because that is not how you run a country", claimed Chikane. …

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