South African Anti-Corruption Head Faces Probe of Mbeki Comments

South Africa’s anti-corruption unit head, Willem Heath, faces an investigation into comments he made about former President Thabo Mbeki, less than two weeks after being appointed to the position.

President Jacob Zuma has instructed his office to investigate the “facts and circumstances surrounding the Heath interview” published in Johannesburg-based City Press on Dec. 4, Zuma’s office said in an e-mailed statement today. Heath alleged in the interview that Mbeki had instructed the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute Zuma for corruption and rape.

“The presidency and the government in general have nothing whatsoever to do with the comments made by Mr. Heath,” the presidency said. “None of the allegations made by Mr. Heath have been attributed to any duty or function which he exercises as head of the Special Investigative Unit.”

Heath, who was appointed as head of the unit on Nov. 29, advised Zuma during his corruption trial. The former judge left as head of the unit more than a decade ago after Mbeki excluded him from investigating a multi billion-rand arms purchase.

Zuma, who ousted Mbeki as leader of the ruling African National Congress in 2007, was acquitted on rape charges in 2006. Corruption charges against him were dropped in 2009, weeks before he became president.