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Public hearings into suspended Pikoli kick off

by Bathandwa Mbola
on 07 May 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Public hearings conducted by the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry into suspended National Director of Public Prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, kicked off in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Speaking during the opening of the hearings on Wednesday, former speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala, who is heading the inquiry, emphasised that the process was not a judicial one.

"It is not a commission of inquiry governed by the Commission's Act and the President [Thabo Mbeki] has not issued any regulations with directives about rules.

Dr Ginwala was appointed by President Mbeki to investigate Advocate Pikoli after he was suspended, due to a breakdown in the professional relationship between himself and Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

In the interim, Advocate Mokotedi Mpshe was appointed to ensure that the work of the NPA continues smoothly.

"The purpose of these hearings is for me to gain additional information to enable me to properly consider the maters placed before me and take a determination on the issues raised in terms of the reference," said Dr Ginwala.

Dr Ginwala said the inquiry was charting new territory and had to be guided by the Constitution, and adhere to the tenets of natural justice, embody fairness and follow due process.

"I am eager that all the proceedings be conducted in public unless there is good reason why any portion of the hearings should be held in camera."

Dr Ginwala said that apart from the government's submissions and Mr Pikoli's submission, the inquiry had also received submissions from the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law, Mervyn Bennun, of the University of Cape Town's Law Faculty, and the International Association of Prosecutors.

The enquiry will look into any other matters that may relate to the fitness and propriety on the National Director to hold office.

The first is the exercise of discretion by Adv Pikoli in the decision to prosecute offenders, or grant immunity from prosecution to suspects allegedly involved in organised crime, with particular regard to the public interest and the national security interests of the Republic.

The second main issue to be investigated is the breakdown of the relationship between the Minister of Justice and the National Director of Public Prosecutions, in the context of the legislative and constitutional obligations placed on the minister and the NDPP.

Government's list of witnesses included Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Johnny de Lange, Director General in the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Manala Manzini, and Director General in The Presidency Frank Chikane.

Acting police Chief Timothy Williams and NIA Deputy Director General Arthur Fraser will also testify for the state.

Mr Pikoli's lawyers still need to finalise their list of witnesses.

"After I have submitted my reports to the President, he may, should he wish to remove (Mr Pikoli) from office, table a report to Parliament with this recommendation.

"Parliament will then discuss the recommendation from the President and may concur with or reject that recommendation," Dr Ginwala said, adding that if it was rejected, the President would have to reinstate Mr Pikoli.

"If on receipt of the report on the inquiry, the President decides to reverse the provisional suspension, he will simply reinstate [Mr Pikoli] as the National Director of Public Prosecutions." - BuaNews


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