Photo: Outgoing Head of the Special Investigating Unit, Advocate Vas Soni. Credit: eNCA.
Following the Monday announcement of his resignation of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU)'s top post, Advocate Vas Soni has maintained that he wasn't politically pushed out of the position. Speaking to 702's John Robbie, Soni also says it was a difficult decision to make and one that he made to look after his wife who isn't well:
I left a long career in practices as an advocate and when I took the job (as SIU Head), I thought this is where I would end my career - sadly, it's not to be. I can say unequivocally that the only reason (why he resigned) is so I can spend time with my wife.
Regarding concerns raised around the timing of his resignation coinciding with well reported crises in the SAPS, the Hawks, the NPA and SARS, Soni maintained his stance:
Before I made my decision, it just became clear to me that the coincidences would be put together and people would draw lines and try and link them. I want to say unequivocally, that is not the case, it's purely coincidental. (On finding the architect was to blame during the SIU's investigation on Nkandla) the Integrity Unit doesn't investigate at all, a team is appointed and chosen in a particular way, so it's quite random. They do the investigation, they are the real hero's and uncover all the maladministration and corruption. My role really is to guide them. If there was pressure to be put on me, I would have to say to them 'please leave this out and leave that out'. I think they are people of integrity who would never allow that happen so I can say to you, absolutely, clearly - I have never put any pressure in any of our investigations and I can say to you, I have never been subjected to any pressure.
Soni outlined his priorities and plans for the future, in returning to private practice as an advocate:
The advantage of private practice is it gives me the flexibility. The real problem with the SIU job is I leave home just after 6 every day and at the time of Nkandla, I would get home at 8 in the evening. I think that's what the job really requires and I think it would be highly unfair to my wife if I would continue doing that at this stage.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) Lawson Naidoo said that Soni's leaving would affect the entire intelligence and criminal justice system.
Soni was appointed as the head of the SIU in August 2013.
Speaking to 702's Xolani Gwala, Naidoo explained that those who would benefit from the instability of the SIU are those who are seeking to avoid accountability for corruption:
It once again brings instability to one of the key institutions in the fight against corruption and in order to be successful in that fight against corruption in South Africa we need to have strong institutions to deal with that and the ever-changing leadership within these institutions obviously undermines that fight [against corruption] ... Weak institutions allow people to get away with corruption and other unethical conduct and criminal activity.
Naidoo further highlighted a number of other key anti-corruption institutions that are also in a vulnerable position as the leadership has either been suspended or under the threat of suspension.
In the case of the Hawks we know that Lieutenant-General Dramat for example has said that he believes that he's been suspended because of some high profile investigations that he's been involved with and that the Zimbabwean rendition case is simply a smokescreen to hide that ... We know with the NPA also that there has been political influence in terms of prosecutorial decisions and the Supreme Court of Appeal has castigated senior figures in the NPA for their lethargy in acting, and acting unprofessionally.