Does R7,5m pave the way for Pikoli's new job?

President Jacob Zuma has opened the door for axed prosecuting head Vusi Pikoli to find a new job in the government.

And, in the R7,5 million settlement deal that ended Pikoli's legal war with the state, government officials have not only recognised the former national director of public prosecutions as a "man of integrity", but also reaffirmed the importance of prosecutorial independence.

It is understood that it was this acknowledgement that, following a marathon mediation session between Pikoli's lawyers and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi on Saturday, persuaded Pikoli to agree to drop his legal bid for reinstatement.

The Star has learnt that the high-level bid to avoid a court wrangle between Pikoli and the Presidency was launched on Friday, and overseen by two labour mediation experts.

Pikoli was suspended by President Thabo Mbeki more than two years ago, and fired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe in December 2008.

According to Pikoli, his suspension was motivated by his refusal to call off the Scorpions' corruption prosecution against then police chief Jackie Selebi.

He further suggested that Motlanthe had fired him despite Dr Frene Ginwala's finding that he was "fit and proper" for the position of prosecuting chief in order to protect Zuma from his now-aborted corruption prosecution.

The recriminations against the Presidency now appear to be a thing of the past, with Zuma's spokesman Vincent Magwenya insisting that both the Presidency and Pikoli wished to "restore their relationship to one characterised by mutual trust and respect".

The one-page Pikoli settlement deal, which was to be handed in at the Pretoria High Court this morning, states that Pikoli can apply for government positions in the future.

Pikoli's attorney, Aslam Moosajee, yesterday said his client was still contemplating his future career options.

He added that Pikoli had been ready to go to court, but was relieved that his protracted legal battle with the Presidency was finally over.

"We believe we had a strong case... but, if we had won, the case would definitely have been appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal and possibly the Constitutional Court.

"Mr Pikoli's life and career would have been in limbo for at least another year," he said.

Justice Ministry spokesman Tlali Tlali yesterday confirmed that the government had agreed to pay all Pikoli's legal costs in challenging his suspension and dismissal.

"We believe the resolution of this matter is in the best interests of justice and the country.

"The government has never not been committed to prosecutorial independence... we are reaffirming our stance," Tlali said, adding that it was now up to the president to appoint a replacement for Pikoli.

The Presidency would not be drawn on when this appointment would be made.

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