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Motlanthe removes Pikoli from office, following report

by Michael Appel
on 08 Dec 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

President Kgalema Motlanthe on Monday announced his decision to relieve Advocate Vusi Pikoli of his responsibilities as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).

This follows the release of the Report of Enquiry into Adv Pikoli's fitness to hold office.

"I was required as President of the Republic to make a final decision...on whether or not Advocate Pikoli was fit and proper to continue to hold the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

"I have come to the determination that Advocate Pikoli should be relieved of his responsibility as the country's National Director of Public Prosecutions," the President said.

Adv Pikoli was suspended as NDPP by former President Thabo Mbeki on 23 September 2007 due to an "irretrievable breakdown" in the relationship between himself and the former Minister of Justice Brigitte Mabandla, among other reasons.

Former Speaker of Parliament, Dr Frene Ginwala, was subsequently called on to investigate the various allegations and counter-allegations submitted by both parties. A report was prepared to this end and submitted to the President on 4 November.

President Motlanthe highlighted that the report had found Adv Pikoli had a lack of understanding of his responsibility to operate within a strict security environment, and to ensure that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) operated in a manner that took into account and did not compromise national security.

"Adv Pikoli's professional competence is not in question. However, it should be noted that the requisite skills would, necessarily, include professional competence as well as those outlined by the enquiry, in particular, appreciation for and sensitivity to matters of national security," the President said.

While government's submissions to the enquiry did not include Adv Pikoli being a risk to national security, Dr Ginwala did say in her report that Adv Pikoli did not give due consideration to the actions the former President might have needed to take in order to defuse a potential security crisis.

"Had this been presented as a reason for the suspension [of Adv Pikoli], when his conduct would have held a real risk of undermining national security, I would not have hesitated to find the reason to be legitimate.

"However, these were not among the reasons put forward by government before this enquiry," Dr Ginwala said.

The enquiry consequently recommended, among other things, that Advocate Pikoli "be restored to the office of the NDPP".

However, the President explained that after considering the report, he had taken cognisance of the fact that the enquiry appeared to have confined itself to the determination of whether the communicated reason for the suspension of Advocate Pikoli was legitimate rather than whether he was fit to hold the office of NDPP as was stipulated in the terms of reference.

The Enquiry made certain findings and accompanying recommendations. Among other things it found that:
* the basis advanced by Government for the suspension of Adv Pikoli had not been established through the evidence submitted to the Enquiry;
* in the course of the Enquiry some deficiencies in the capacity and understanding of Adv Pikoli to fully execute the range of responsibilities attached to the office of the NDPP became apparent - more specifically, the lack of understanding on his part of his responsibility to operate within a strict security environment and to ensure that the NPA, and the DSO, operate in a manner that takes into account the community interest and does not compromise national security; and
* Advocate Pikoli did not fully appreciate the sensitivities of the political environment in which the NPA operates, and his responsibility to manage this environment.

In accordance with the National Prosecuting Authority Act, the President said he will be communicating his decision to Parliament within 30 days.

"This is a decision I arrived at after having invited representations from Advocate Pikoli and this truly is my own decision," he said, adding that Parliament had the legislative authority to overrule his decision to relieve Adv Pikoli of his duties. - BuaNews

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