NPA minefield a hard place to be

The unfolding drama around the suspension of National Prosecuting Authority boss Vusi Pikoli is interestingly underscored by intrigue and ironies.

The unfolding drama around the suspension of National Prosecuting Authority boss Vusi Pikoli is interestingly underscored by intrigue and ironies.

Intriguing because Pikoli's suspension has, not surprisingly, generated much public conjecture and speculation - some contradicting the official version for the presidential action, which is that he was dumped by President Thabo Mbeki because there was an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between him and Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

The enduring speculation however has been that behind the decision to suspend Pikoli lay attempts by the president to protect national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, against whom the NPA boss had successfully sought search and arrest warrants.

Not least sensitised to the minefield presented by the Selebi dossier is newly-appointed acting NPA boss Mokotedi Mpshe, who has been instructed by Mbeki to review the decision to prosecute the police boss.

The irony is that Mpshe would have been part of the NPA senior management, including Pikoli, that took the controversial decision to obtain warrants against Selebi.

Given this irony, Mpshe is - so to speak - damned if he arrives at a decision that permanently revokes the NPA's earlier decision to prosecute Selebi, thus seen to kowtow to Mbeki. He is also damned if he stands by his colleagues' decision to obtain the warrants, a possible career-limiting move that will be interpreted as a rebuttal of the presidential action against his boss.

The conundrum is that, whatever happens, Mpshe's decision will still be subject to validation by Frene Ginwala through an inquiry she will be chairing to determine Pikoli's fitness to hold the NPA job.

Paradoxically, Mbeki has given Mpshe enough options to exercise his mind over the matter without undue pressure, considering that the Selebi dossier had already been presented to and reviewed by a senior magistrate and a high court judge who approved the search and arrest warrants.

Mpshe will need biblical Solomon's wisdom to negotiate through a minefield that essentially cries out for a political solution from whence the fire came - the presidency.

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