Publication: Mail and Guardian
Reporter: Adriaan Basson
Reporter: Sello S Alcock
Pikoli Lays Bare State's Blatant Lies
Mail and Guardian
Adriaan Basson, Sello S Alcock
The government's astonishing bid to protect police National Commissioner Jackie
Selebi from being arrested was laid bare this week in minute detail by suspended
prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli.
Compelling evidence produced by Pikoli at the Ginwala inquiry in Johannesburg
indicates President Thabo Mbeki and several other senior government officials
colluded to save Selebi, sacrificing Pikoli in a way that, according to the
suspended National Prosecuting Authority boss, was illegal, a sham and spurious.
The "sham" culminated in Justice and Constitutional Development Minister
Brigitte Mabandla ordering Pikoli to drop the Scorpions' Selebi investigation.
When he refused, Mbeki showed him the door.
The state has denied this version, accusing Pikoli of insisting on doing things
his way. Director general in the presidency Frank Chikane testified this week
that Pikoli's suspension was not about charging Selebi, but about "the way in
which it was going to be done".
"At no stage did the president or myself say no official in government could be
arrested," Chikane testified. He and Mbeki were, however, surprised when Pikoli
presented them with the Selebi warrants. Chikane described Pikoli's attitude as
one of: "It doesn't matter what process you set up, I'm going to do it my way."
Pikoli's submission was made to former parliamentary speaker Frene Ginwala's
inquiry into his suitability for the job of national director of public
prosecutions (NDPP), set up by Mbeki late last year. The public hearings started
in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
But the submission reveals that government lied to the public about the reasons
for his suspension and that most of the accusations against him could not be
substantiated by witnesses. Indeed, some of the "irregularities" he is accused
of occurred after his suspension.
The Ginwala hearings went ahead after Pikoli refused to accept a government
settlement offer in terms of which his suspension would be lifted and he would
resign. Government has since refused to release its submissions to Ginwala or
affidavits it has of crucial witnesses, but Pikoli has made his sworn statement
His affidavit describes how Mbeki, Justice and Constitutional Development
Minister Brigitte Mabandla, justice director general Menzi Simelane, acting NDPP
boss Mokotedi Mpshe, Mbeki's legal adviser Mojanku Gumbi and senior South
African Police Service staff manoeuvred to prevent Selebi from being arrested
Pikoli's legal team contends that even in the Ginwala forum government is
"blatantly" attempting to protect Selebi. And, they say, there is no doubt that
the real reason for suspending Pikoli was to protect the embattled police chief.
One of government's main charges against Pikoli -- that he failed to inform
Mabandla or Mbeki of the Selebi investigation and of the warrant for the police
chief's arrest -- is dispelled by details of numerous meetings each had with
Pikoli about the investigation.
In March 2006, two weeks after the Scorpions obtained an affidavit linking
Selebi to organised crime, Pikoli briefed Mabandla on the developments. A few
days later he met Mbeki, who assured him that he would not interfere in Project
Bad Guys, the Scorpions' investigation into the alleged criminal network
surrounding slained mining magnate Brett Kebble.
As the investigation developed, Pikoli held more meetings with Mabandla and
Mbeki where he briefed them on new leads involving Selebi. In November 2006
Mbeki allegedly recommended that Pikoli meet Selebi to "raise [his] concerns
directly with him".
Pikoli, who knew Selebi from his days in exile, said this was a "particularly
difficult" meeting for him. "At this meeting both of us ended up in tears and Mr
Selebi was vocal about the DSO [Directorate of Special Operations, the
Scorpions] being used against him."
But Pikoli persisted with the probe and expressed his concern to Mbeki when the
police became reluctant to give the Scorpions documents they requested. After
numerous abortive attempts to secure the documentation, Pikoli agreed to apply
for a warrant to search police headquarters and the crime intelligence offices
in May last year. He informed Mbeki of his plans in a memorandum.
A concerned Mbeki called Pikoli on his cellphone and asked for more time "to
intervene". The president also asked Mabandla and Defence Minister Mosiuoa
Lekota to meet Pikoli.
After giving them the memorandum he had given Mbeki, Pikoli spent two hours
explaining the allegations against the police commissioner. According to Pikoli,
Lekota was satisfied that Selebi had a case to answer and raised concerns only
about the use of accomplice evidence, which, Pikoli explained, was common
practice and sanctioned by law.
Plea bargains entered into with Kebble murder-accused Glenn Agliotti and the
mining boss's former security chief, Clint Nassif, form part of government's
charge that Pikoli is not a fit person to head the NPA. But his legal team
points out that both these plea bargains were signed after he was suspended as
After the meeting with Lekota and Mabandla Mbeki asked to meet Pikoli and
Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy in the presence of the commissioner and senior
police staff. "The president directed that the SAPS must cooperate with the DSO
and provide the information requested by the DSO."
After two more failed attempts to procure copies of documents from the police,
Mabandla was informed that the Scorpions had no option but to apply for search
"The minister viewed this as a crisis and indicated that it would shake the
foundation of the country. She urged us not to have a long-drawn trial and to
resolve matters quickly. She asked me to inform the president before we took the
next step," Pikoli said.
After he and his colleagues had tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a meeting with
Mbeki for almost two months, they decided to apply for an arrest warrant. On
September 10 the warrant was granted by the Randburg Magistrate's Court and the
next day Pikoli met Mabandla to update her on this development.
She agreed to set up a meeting with Mbeki, which took place four days later. At
the meeting, also attended by the director general in the presidency Frank
Chikane, Mbeki expressed surprise at the arrest and search warrants and said he
was unaware that the SAPS had refused to co-operate.
"I was astonished that this came as a surprise to the president, because in my
memorandum of 7 May 2007 it was made clear that the DSO intended to apply for a
search warrant," Pikoli says. He was asked to produce a new report on the case
and did so.
On September 18 Pikoli received the letter from Mabandla reported on in last
week's Mail & Guardian. Mabandla instructed Pikoli to drop the Selebi
investigation, furnish her with the entire Selebi docket and the probe until she
had satisfied herself "that sufficient information and evidence does exist for
the arrest of and preference of charges".
"This order was in all respects unlawful and a violation of both the
Constitution and the NPA Act ... I realise today that it was this turn of events
and my refusal to submit to the minister's order which culminated in my
suspension a mere five days later," Pikoli says in his affidavit.
On Thursday Simelane, under cross-examination by Pikoli's senior counsel, Wim
Trengove, said he did not believe Mabandla's letter to be an instruction to
Pikoli to stop the investigation. He also said that Pikoli could have threatened
national security had he gone ahead with Selebi's arrest.
It emerged this week that a letter from Mbeki to Mabandla requesting her to
obtain more information from Pikoli about the Selebi case preceded her letter.
Mabandla followed up her letter with a telephone call the next day. Pikoli said
she "burst into a tirade", asked him "whether [he] thought she was a moron" and
said she was "tired of this rubbish".
"I denied the accusations and reminded her that I had been briefing her since
March 2006. The minister apologised for her outburst," said Pikoli.
On September 21 Chikane called Pikoli to set up a meeting with Mbeki on
September 23. But the president asked Pikoli to meet Mabandla before their
meeting. On the afternoon of September 23 Mabandla told Pikoli there had been a
breakdown of trust and asked him to resign. Pikoli denied such a breakdown,
saying he had always had a "cordial relationship" with the minister.
He refused to step down, saying that if he did so he would be lying to the
nation. "The minister said: 'Vusi, this is all about
integrity and one day I will talk.' I could not
understand what she was referring to." *1
From this meeting Pikoli went to Mbeki, who told him he would be
suspended if he did not resign. Pikoli said he "waited with the president while
the letter of suspension was being prepared". Mbeki originally told him that he
was being suspended because of plea bargains and witness immunity, but these
reasons have changed significantly over time.
After establishing what occurred after his suspension Pikoli became convinced
that the Selebi warrants were the sole reasons for the action against him. He
says that Mpshe, appointed acting NDPP by Mbeki, confirmed to him that the
president and Mabandla were upset that the DSO had applied for warrants without
consulting Mbeki. In addition, Mpshe, on Mabandla's instructions, held back a
media statement in which the management of the NPA expressed support for Pikoli.
According to an affidavit from Mpshe, Gumbi asked him to apply for the
cancellation of the Selebi warrants and Simelane prepared a draft affidavit in
support of the cancellation application.
On Thursday Simelane testified that Mpshe was "exaggerating" about his role in
drafting the affidavit. He only assisted Mpshe in considering different
"options" on how to take the Selebi matter forward.
Pikoli's counsel, Tim Bruinders, disclosed that the police have yet to give the
Scorpions the documents they requested months ago for the Selebi investigation.
Selebi is scheduled to appear in the Randburg Magistrate's court on June 26.
With acknowledgements to Adriaan
Basson, Sello S Alcock and Mail and Guardian.
*1 One day all will be revealed and
that will be that the NDPP's suspension had nothing to do with Chikane or Selebi.
One day when there is a new president and the minister is looking for
ingratiation the minister will talk and it will all be about integrity, actually
the complete lack of it.
It's all enough to make Tim Jan taste very sweet indeed.