News analysis: Crisis in the days of our (sad) lives

2015-03-29 15:00

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TV soapies have nothing on the ongoing drama in our crumbling criminal justice system

Those who watch Days of Our Lives say they have withdrawal symptoms if they miss a single episode. This long-running soapie is apparently a never-ending saga, with a cast of characters who indulge in liberal doses of fornication, incest, scheming and back-stabbing. The twists and turns keep the fans of the soapie on edge.

If it were not so tragic, the drama in our criminal justice system would be as enjoyable to South African citizens as Days of Our Lives is to its fans. But there is no enjoyment in this drama. It is ruthless and ugly. And debilitating.

Fuelled by rumour-mongering, uncertainty and extreme paranoia, the intrigue in this drama reaches right up to the highest office and deep down into the bowels of our law enforcement agencies.

At the top is a president who is afraid of a revived prosecution and so appoints and fires people on the basis of who can and can’t protect him from wearing orange overalls.

This self-preservation instinct has polluted the entire system and set cop against cop and prosecutor against prosecutor. It has set cop against prosecutor and politician against whoever is not dancing to the right tune.

In the second tier, you have a minister who was out in the cold following his unceremonious removal as the labour department’s director-general several years ago.

Rescued from obscurity and thrust into his powerful post by President Jacob Zuma, this relative political lightweight will always do his master’s bidding, even if it flies against the law and his own correct reading of a situation.

As a nonmember of the national executive committee, on which most of his Cabinet colleagues serve, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko bends at will and his role as trusted henchman has amplified his standing.

Add to this toxic environment the hapless General Riah Phiyega, a police chief who is not only totally at sea but also at war with almost the entire management of the organisation she runs.

“She has never had any respect. She did not make an effort to gain respect when she arrived,” an insider says of the former social worker.

Phiyega is in the unique position of being despised by both those above her and beneath her.

Fully aware that she has outlived her usefulness to a president whose fickleness is legendary, she is doing her utmost to please those above her and hold on to a job she was never suited for and which she has messed up royally.

Then you have the perennial crisis in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which has not been stable since Zuma swam against the law and appointed Menzi Simelane to head it in 2009.

After the president was forced by the courts to remove Simelane, acting director Nomgcobo Jiba did her damndest to keep the infamous “spy tapes” secret and fight off attempts by the DA to force Zuma back to the dock to face corruption charges.

But this dependable presidential ally received stinging rebukes by the courts on separate matters in which she had taken a personal interest, rendering it impossible for Zuma to confirm her appointment lest he face another Simelane situation.

So Jiba and her allies in the NPA turned to Mxolisi Nxasana, the man who eventually got the job.

Elevated to the position because the powers that be believed he could be a useful idiot, the relatively unknown Nxasana has turned out to be anything but.

He has been steadfast on issues of law and principle, much to the displeasure of

those who want him to be grateful for the cornflakes on his children’s breakfast plates.

An unholy alliance has therefore developed between the political offices above him and those who report to him in his office.

Off with his head, they all agree.

Lurking somewhere in the dark and pulling invisible strings is a man who wields mysterious power: Richard Mdluli.

One could never draw a matrix of intrigue without most of the lines connecting to the suspended crime intelligence chief.

What this power is can only be determined if someone lays their hands on the key to the safe that keeps South Africa’s darkest secrets.

What we do know is that this power strikes fear, paranoia and uncertainty in to the hearts of many – from the highest offices to the deep belly of the state.

He is the key to unlocking the mystery into this crisis in the days of our lives.

More crossfire

Dramat, Sibiya face criminal charges

Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and his Gauteng counterpart, Shadrack Sibiya, now face criminal charges relating to the illegal rendition of five Zimbabweans.

North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi has recommended that the two be criminally charged, and national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana now has to give the go-ahead.

Senior Hawks and NPA sources say that, in a letter sent to Nxasana’s office on March 13, Mzinyathi has recommended that Dramat, Sibiya and Hawks divisional head Lesley Maluleke be charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, assault and defeating the ends of justice.

The charges appear to be based on a draft report of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the findings of which were overturned by a finalised version.

Nxasana confirmed to City Press: “He made a recommendation that they should be charged.”

He added that he had appointed a team of senior prosecutors who were looking further into the recommendations.

Two sources, one within the Hawks and the other in the NPA, said efforts had been made to rush Nxasana into charging the three – which included a charge of defeating the ends of justice laid against Nxasana himself for delaying the criminal charges.

But Nxasana told City Press he was not aware of any such investigation, adding that he was dealing with many cases and did not see himself as defeating the ends of justice.

Dramat declined to comment.

Senior police sources said, although Dramat’s settlement negotiations were at an advanced stage, criminal charges could derail any payout. The police could use the case to suspend him, bring internal charges against him and then fire him.

“If that happens soon, he won’t be granted early retirement,” said a senior police source.

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