Yesterday Justice Minister Jeff Radebe reportedly said that a permanent head of the Special Investigating Unit "should" be appointed by the end of February. We will believe that when we see it.
Minister Radebe told Parliament back in August last year that the appointment was "imminent." We are still waiting.
The appointment of a new SIU Head is a test of President Zuma's credibility. Under Acting Head Adv. Nomvula Mokhatla, the Unit has been plagued by allegations of politicisation and irregular appointments, to the point where we have requested the Public Protector to investigate.
If the President is truly serious about fighting corruption, the person he appoints must:
Be independent and prepared to investigate without fear or favour;
Have the qualifications and experience required to conduct and oversee large-scale corruption investigations;
Have the leadership qualities necessary to take control of the Unit, investigate alleged irregularities in appointment and other procedures and correct them; and
Be a person whose integrity is beyond question, who can restore the credibility of the SIU both within the Unit and in the public mind.
If the President chooses such a person, it will be long overdue and most welcome. It will send the right message, not just at home, but also to the investors he has been trying to woo in Davos. This will go some way toward restoring confidence in our economy and providing an impetus for job creation.
If, however, the President chooses another loyalist - someone he can "direct" in what and who should be investigated - he will reinforce the perception that he is manipulating independent institutions to protect himself and his allies.
Debbie Schafer, Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development