Nxasana’s head is on the block

2014-07-06 15:00

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President Jacob Zuma has announced there will be an inquiry to determine if National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Mxolisi Nxasana is still fit and proper to hold office.

This has sparked immediate concerns that Nxasana had stepped on sensitive political toes and politicians were “gunning for” him.

Zuma announced the commission in a terse press statement issued yesterday afternoon. His spokes­person Mac Maharaj told City Press he could not comment on whether Nxasana would be suspended for the duration of the ­inquiry, saying that the president would communicate those details at a later stage.

This comes after months of ­infighting in the top ranks of the NPA, which has seen Nxasana ­accuse his predecessor, former acting NPA head Nomgcobo Jiba, and a faction of the NPA’s management team loyal to her, of running a smear campaign against him.

Nxasana has also been the centre of controversy after it emerged that he was not granted security clearance because he failed to disclose the fact that he was charged with murder in the 1980s and later ­acquitted, as well as the fact that he had twice been found guilty of assault.

Nxasana told the Mail & Guardian that he had been asked to resign by former Justice Minister Jeff Radebe shortly before Zuma appointed his new Cabinet, and that he had refused to do so.

Two weeks ago, City Press reported that the State Security Agency was conducting an investigation into allegations that Jiba had spearheaded a campaign to dig up dirt on Nxasana. At the centre of the investigation is supposedly a forged affidavit by an NPA official that will likely feature prominently in the inquiry.

Just 10 months into his term, Nxasana will become the second national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) to face such a commission.

The first was Advocate Vusi Pikoli, who was removed from office despite the fact that the Ginwala Commission recommended he be reinstated.

The position of national director has been dogged by controversy, infighting and allegations of political interference for the past 20 years.

An NDPP’s term lasts for 10 years and South Africa should only be on its second NDPP by now. However, Nxasana is the seventh, acting heads included.

Two advocates with knowledge of the NPA and who are sympathetic to Nxasana said that the lawyer had proved to be too independent for the establishment and that politicians were targeting him.

Another senior NPA source told City Press that if ­Nxasana was suspended and Jiba allowed to return, it would “destroy” what little morale was left.

Glynnis Breytenbach, a former senior prosecutor who is now the DA’s justice and correctional services spokesperson, yesterday said that she finds the timing of the commission to be “suspicious”.

“If there’s a problem with the ­appointment, then it should be investigated, but?...?I find it astonishing that an appointment of that nature could ­possibly have been made without a proper check having been made,” she said, referring to Nxasana’s failed ­security clearance.

The investigation “comes just after he indicated he is going to reinstate charges against [former crime intelligence boss Richard] ­Mdluli,” said Breytenbach.

Mdluli, who famously wrote to President Jacob Zuma ahead of the Mangaung conference offering his assistance, is a powerful figure in the criminal justice system who is facing two sets criminal charges, ­including kidnapping and assault and fraud and corruption.

These charges were initially dropped, a decision that was overturned by the NPA after rights group Freedom ­Under Law took the matter to court amid allegations that Mdluli was being shielded from prosecution by his ­political connections.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), said it was “concerning to have an inquiry after 10 months” of an NDPP’s appointment.

When Zuma appointed Nxasana last year, Casac called on him to take “the nation into your confidence and tell us why you appointed this person”, and the president “did not take us up on that”.

Naidoo said it was now up to Zuma to appoint someone to head the inquiry who needs to be a person “in whom the South African public can have some confidence?...? to ensure a fair and proper inquiry”.

Nxasana’s spokesperson Nathi Mncube declined to comment.

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