SIU head Soni quits amid turmoil engulfing law enforcement agencies

SPECIAL Investigating Unit (SIU) head Vas Soni said on Monday his resignation had nothing to do with developments in other state institutions, maintaining that his reasons were purely personal.

He submitted his resignation to President Jacob Zuma last Wednesday and confirmed it publicly on Monday.

Mr Zuma announced the appointment of both Mr Soni and National Prosecuting Authority head Mxolisi Nxasana in August 2013. Both appointments were ill-fated, but for vastly different reasons.

Mr Nxasana’s position hangs in the balance ostensibly over his past brushes with the law. However, he alleges a conspiracy against him.

Mr Soni’s departure makes the SIU the second corruption-fighting institution without a full-time head. Hawks boss Anwar Dramat won a legal challenge to his suspension last week but Police Minister Nathi Nhleko is appealing the judgment.

Another state institution in the midst of internal turmoil is the South African Revenue Services, which has suspended its deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, along with its head of strategy, Peter Richer, and its head of investigations, Johann van Loggenberg.

Mr Soni said on Monday that his wife was ill and he needed to spend more time with her. This required him to have a more flexible schedule than working at the SIU afforded him.

At this stage, Mr Soni was considering returning to practising law, he said. “It really has been a hard time for us as a family.”

Mr Soni said the SIU could play a bigger role in fighting corruption and his successor needed to ensure it did. “I think the SIU is an important institution in the fight against corruption.

“We need to keep relooking at ways in which (the unit) can play a more meaningful role. Certain internal processes we have been developing have been put in place and need to be implemented more vigorously.”

Insiders on Monday expressed shock at Mr Soni’s resignation, saying the organisation had begun to stabilise after a string of appointments that did not last. Mr Zuma is responsible for appointing the head of the SIU.

Mr Soni was preceded by two SIU chiefs, both appointed in an acting capacity. Deputy directors of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and Nomvula Mokhatla both acted in the position before Mr Soni was appointed on a permanent basis.

Ms Jiba had replaced Willem Heath, who resigned after controversy surrounding allegations he made that former president Thabo Mbeki had orchestrated rape and corruption charges against Mr Zuma.

The Presidency had not yet received formal communication from Mr Soni, it said on Monday in a statement.