Opposition parties question decision

Kingdom Mabuza and Sapa

Kingdom Mabuza and Sapa

President Thabo Mbeki has suspended the National Director of Public Prose- cutions (NDPP)Vusi Pikoli.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko yesterday said the decision was taken because Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla and Pikoli could not work together anymore.

"This decision was taken on the basis of an irretrievable breakdown in the working relationship between the minister and the NDPP," said Maseko.

The strain between Mabandla and Pikoli emerged during the Sisi Khampepe Commission of inquiry set up to hear where the NDPP should be located.

While Pikoli fought vigorously for the independence of the NDPP, Mabandla was in favour of it falling under SAPS with national police commissioner Jackie Selebi taking control of the NDPP.

Pikoli's suspension, whom sources insist was on his way out, comes close after the sudden resignation of spokesman Panyaza Lesufi.

Lesufi joined the NDPP in March after Makhosini Nkosi was pushed out under pressure from supporters of Jacob Zuma.

Maseko said Pikoli's suspension was in terms of Section 12 (6) (a) of the National Prosecution Act 32 of 1998. He said Mbeki considered the relationship between Mabandla and the NDPP central to the effective administration of justice and the "smooth functioning" of the NPA.

"The relationship breakdown had adverse implications for the NPA and the functioning of the criminal justice system," he said.

Maseko said an enquiry would be instituted to investigate the functioning and role of the NDPP. Recommendations would then be made to Mbeki.

Pikoli's deputy, Mokotedi Mpshe, has been appointed acting director.

"Government would like to reassure all South Africans that the functioning of the justice system will not be compromised, especially within the context of the collective challenge to fight crime," Maseko said.

DA leader Helen Zille said Pikoli's suspension had "immense national implications". Her spokesman Martin Slabbert said Zille would ask the party's justice spokesman Tertius Delport to request that the justice portfolio committee be recalled "for a full briefing" on Mbeki's decision.

The ACDP said it was "shocked" at Pikoli's suspension.

"We could understand it if the suspension related to incompetence or incapacity. But to allege a breakdown of relationship is very drastic," said ACDP spokesman Libby Norton.