Opposition parties have voiced concern that a special parliamentary committee set up to decide if former prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli should be reinstated will simply rubber stamp a presidential decision to axe him – missing an opportunity to hold the executive to account.The parties consider it highly unlikely that the ANC dominated 22 member committee will go against President Kgalema Motlanthe’s decision to axe Pikoli.
The ad hoc committee, which held hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, was convened following Motlanthe’s controversial decision to remove Pikoli from office on 8 December last year. This was despite a finding by the Ginwala Commission that cleared him as being fit to hold office.
The commission was held after Pikoli’s suspension by then President Thabo Mbeki on 23 September 2007 for not taking national security into consideration in the investigation by the NPA of National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi for his alleged links to organised crime. Selebi was subsequently suspended.
Independent Democrats (ID) leader Patricia de Lille said although the committee provided the opportunity for parliament to hold the executive accountable, past experience around issues such as the arms deal and HIV/Aids had seen the ANC voting along party political lines.
De Lille said committee hearings held on Tuesday and Wednesday had made it apparent that ANC members of the committee had been ” singing in a chorus from the same hymn sheets”.
De Lille said this was a a “serious problem” because members of the ANC tended to agree with the executive even when it might be wrong – instead of fulfilling the parliamentary role of holding the executive accountable.
The ad-hoc committee was set up to prove that parliament was not just a “lapdog” of the executive and to protect the independence of the judiciary in case the executive had interfered in the prosecutions authority, she said.
This week’s hearings centred mainly around the national security reasons given for Pikoli’s demise. Pikoli insisted that these reasons were a smokescreen, while Director-General in the Presidency Reverend Frank Chikane maintained that this was the reason for Mbeki’s actions.
ACDP MP Steve Swart said parliament had created a network of provisions to reinforce and protect the constitutionally entrenched principle of prosecutorial independence.
Swart said: “In our view Adv. Pikoli answered all questions and queries pertaining to national security in a convincing and compelling manner…no member can in good conscience say that Adv. Pikoli is not a fit and proper person to hold office as NDPP.”
However, he said it was apparent from the questions put by ANC members on the Committee that they intended supporting Motlanthe’s decision.
Democratic Alliance MP Tertius Delport said he was “very doubtful” that the committee would come to an objective decision since it was clear that the ANC already supported Motlanthe’s decision.
Delport said: “I am afraid that this is just going to be another rubber stamp because I would be surprised if members of the ANC would deviate.”
But ANC National Assembly Chief Whip Mnyamezeli Shedrack Booi said Parliament was independent and had therefore set up the committee to give Pikoli the opportunity to express his point of view. He said Parliament was “a law unto itself” and the executive could not interfere with this.
The committee will continue deliberations on 27 January.