State denies Mbeki is protecting Selebi

Waghied Misbach and Eric Naki

Waghied Misbach and Eric Naki

The government has rejected claims that National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Vusi Pikoli was suspended because President Thabo Mbeki was trying to protect national Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi from prosecution.

But government spokesman Themba Maseko could not confirm yesterday whether a warrant of arrest has been obtained by the Scorpions for the arrest of Selebi, who allegedly has links with a number of organised crime figures.

NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali told Sowetan yesterday that the NPA leadership was committed to ensuring that all work done under Pikoli would continue.

Maseko said that the suspension of Pikoli "as far as I know" has nothing to do with case of ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma. He reiterated that the reason for Pikoli's suspension was the "breakdown in the working relationship" he had with Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

He said the president had held a number of meetings with Mabandla and Pikoli, but could not broker an agreement between the two.

Maseko confirmed former speaker of the national assembly Frene Ginwala,will head the inquiry into Pikoli's fitness to hold office. He could not provide details of the inquiry's scope, date of completion or whether the report would be made public.

Ginwala's appointment has received mixed reaction from political analysts, but they praised Mbeki for acting decisively to set up the commission.

Political analyst Sipho Seepe said her impartiality was under question because of her senior position in the ANC.

"If this issue is linked to the ANC succession debate, then Ginwala is not the right person for the job," he said. "Her handling of the arms deal was in favour of the executive. Her leadership of parliament was not without blemishes."

Parliamentary spokesman Luzuko Jacob said yesterday the speaker would study the DA's letter to recall parliament so MPs can grill the president and Mabandla.

The speaker will respond today.