Suspended national prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli said he didn't want a possible backlash to the arrest of police commissioner Jackie Selebi to turn South Africa into a "wasteland".
Pikoli told the Ginwala inquiry into his fitness to hold office that he believed one week was enough time for President Thabo Mbeki to deal with any security concerns and was never told after the initial meeting that Mbeki needed more time.
"He could have said on the 22nd or the 23rd of September, 'Look Vusi, I have really tried to create this but it looks like the week you have given me is unreasonable'.
"I would have considered it," Pikoli said in Johannesburg yesterday.
Pikoli said that the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) work would not have been compromised if Selebi had been arrested just as "Joe Soap", without his police title and as the head of Interpol.
"But we needed to do what we needed to do," he said, adding that everyone was equal before the law.
Pikoli was suspended on September 23, a week after telling Mbeki that he had obtained search and arrest warrants against Selebi. He said that in the week before his suspension the issue was not about prosecutorial independence, because the decision had already been taken to prosecute Selebi. \
It was more about not having a crisis or an area of embarrassment for the country.
Mbeki had already hinted at the possibility of angry policemen.
"As the national director obviously I wouldn't want this country reduced to a wasteland."
He had taken an oath of office and had responsibilities under the Constitution.
"It would be like saying the national commissioner can't be arrested because police officers will cause mayhem.
"We must close down as the NPA if we are going to be helpless in the face of these threats."
Mbeki called for a national security cluster meeting after he had informed him of Selebi's possible arrest, but at no time in the next week was he told that this wasn't enough time for Mbeki to address his concerns. Instead, he was suspended.
Selebi has made initial court appearances and will go on trial next April to face corruption and defeating the ends of justice charges. - Sapa