round 1 goes to PIKOLI

FORMER national prosecuting authority director Vusi Pikoli has won the first round of his legal battle with President Jacob Zuma.

FORMER national prosecuting authority director Vusi Pikoli has won the first round of his legal battle with President Jacob Zuma.

Yesterday the North Gauteng high court ruled in Pikoli's favour, interdicting Zuma from appointing a permanent NPA head.

Handing down judgment in under a minute, Judge Ben du Plessis said Pikoli had presented a prima facie case.

Pikoli's legal team has argued the decision to fire him was unlawful and unconstitutional, so Zuma should be interdicted from appointing his successor.

The interdict order was set in place until the full application could be heard in November.

Pikoli was suspended by former president Thabo Mbeki after he issued a warrant of arrest against former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

He was subsequently fired by acting president Kgalema Motlanthe for apparently failing to appreciate the effect his action would have on national security.

Pikoli is currently challenging his axing. He has already refused a R10million settlement from Motlanthe.

He also turned down an offer to join Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale's Mvelaphanda Holdings as the company's chief legal counsel in 2008.

Yesterday the presidency said it "respected the court ruling and would abide by it".

But Zuma's office said the appointment of a new prosecutions boss was at the heart of the current administration's crime-fighting strategies.

The Independent Democrats and United Democratic Movement both said Zuma should have "learnt from his own experiences that Pikoli had the right to exhaust all legal processes, just like Zuma himself has done on many, many occasions".

"Zuma is the third president after Mbeki and Motlanthe to harass Pikoli for doing his job properly. One would hope that Zuma has learnt that a fair trial also includes the right to appeal," said ID leader Patricia de Lille.

DA MP Dene Smuts questioned the legality of Motlanthe's decision to remove Pikoli from office, "though he had been exonerated by the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry set up to establish his fitness to hold public office".

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