The NPA our very own Game of Thrones

2014-06-29 15:00

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If you want to understand the dirty war that is being fought in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), head for the heart of Johannesburg’s hipster district.

There, near the epicentre of skinny jeans and craft beer, you can take the ­prehistoric lift to the sixth floor of the Arbour Square Building at the corner of Juta and Melle streets in Braamfontein.

Here, in the dusty records room of the ­Johannesburg Labour Court, you will find case file J1230/09.

Its contents make the Machiavellian plot of the Game of Thrones TV series seem like ­afternoon tea with Archbishop Emeritus ­Desmond Tutu.

Among pages and pages of affidavits, transcriptions and furious correspondence ­between high-ranking political figures, some dating back to 2007, you’ll find the names of almost all the people who today are President Jacob Zuma’s royal guard in the criminal ­justice system.

There is Menzi Simelane, who was the ­justice department’s director-general in 2007 and later became Zuma’s pick for national ­director of public ­prosecutions (NDPP).

Also in the file are Nomgcobo Jiba, who would replace Simelane as acting NDPP; ­police crime intelligence head Richard ­Mdluli, who would write to Zuma pledging his help to the president ahead of the ANC’s ­Mangaung conference; and Lawrence Mrwebi, whom ­Zuma would later appoint as head of the ­Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit.

Case file J1230/09 was Jiba’s attempt to fight her 2008 suspension from the NPA for her role in the arrest of prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who was then working on the corruption case of former police commissioner and ANC ­stalwart Jackie Selebi.

The file was initially newsworthy because it linked Mdluli to Jiba – Mdluli wrote a ­scathing affidavit in Jiba’s defence.

This week, when Prince Mokotedi, the head of the NPA’s integrity management unit, was suspended by NDPP Mxolisi ­Nxasana, it was time to haul out J1230/09 again.

Because there, labelled Annexure E to Jiba’s affidavit, is a document that is titled ­Supporting Affidavit of Prince Mokotedi.

It turns out that back in 2007, Jiba and ­Mdluli didn’t even know each other. It was Mokotedi who introduced them.

According to Mokotedi’s affidavit, he was approached by Mdluli, who was looking for a source inside Nel’s office.

Today, we now know that Nel’s ­“prosecution” came to nothing. So what ­happened to Jiba’s case, the subject of file J1230/09?

It is clear from the court file that when Jiba was suspended, she went straight to ­Simelane, the director-general of the justice department.

We know this because on January 14 2008, acting prosecutions boss Mokotedi Mpshe wrote to Simelane.?The letter, contained in file J1230/09, reads in part: “In the first ­instance, the wording of your letter implies that, at the request of the complainant [Adv Jiba], you have the authority to ‘intervene’ in the ­national director’s decision to suspend her. If this is implied, I wish to state that the National Prosecuting Authority is of the view that you are not entitled to intervene in that decision.”

Here’s where it gets strange. We know that the case against Jiba was on track on August?7 2009 because the NPA’s responding papers in the file were stamped on that date.

But just a little more than a month later, Jiba stops fighting. She withdraws the case, saying in a document in the file that the parties have “reached a settlement”.

So what changed in between Mpshe’s ­strident objections of January 2008, when he told Simelane it was none of his business, and September 18 2009, when the case was ­withdrawn?

For starters, a newly elected Zuma ­appoints his justice minister, Jeff Radebe, on May 10 2009.

Less than a month later, Simelane – still the director-general of the justice department – again writes to the NPA. Mpshe is technically still the head of the NPA, but Simelane writes to Khotso De Wee, the authority’s acting operations officer, instead.

“I have previously dealt with this complaint during last year. In short, I advised Adv Mpshe against the desirability of continuing to discipline officials for having assisted the police in a lawful investigation,” writes Simelane.

Two months later, Jiba is cleared.

Less than a month later, Zuma appoints Simelane as head of the NPA and, one month after that, Mrwebi is appointed head of the specialised commercial crimes unit.

Today, the stories that emerge from the NPA – of allegedly faked affidavits being used to fend off opposition, of allegiances forming around all the powerful players – are just a logical ­continuation of what is hinted at in file J1230/09.

Current NDPP Nxasana has learnt the hard way, since his appointment to the NPA’s iron throne last August, the oft-repeated adage from the popular TV series: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

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