Zuma appoints ‘home boys’ to top law posts

2013-08-31 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma again turned to his home province KwaZulu-Natal when he appointed his new heads of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Durban-based criminal attorney Mxolisi Nxasana is the new national director of public prosecutions and advocate Vasantrai (Vas) Soni will head South Africa’s SIU.

In KwaZulu-Natal the nod has — controversially — gone to the present acting DPP, Sophy Moipone Noko, who becomes permanent. Her leadership and prosecutorial decisions have been called into question by some of her staff.

The matter is currently the subject of an investigation by the NPA national office.

“Mr Nxasana currently practises as an attorney with a wealth of experience in criminal litigation, coupled with his having occupied senior positions in the legal profession including the chairpersonship of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society,” Zuma said in a statement.

Soni — a senior advocate of 25 years’ experience — also hails originally from KwaZulu-Natal, but is currently practising as an advocate and acting judge in Johannesburg.

Legal sources said he left the Durban Bar to relocate to Johannesburg about 15 years ago. He has also acted as judge in the Durban High Court and serves on the Judicial Service Commission.

He was evidence leader in the arms deal inquiry, and also played a crucial role as chief evidence leader in the Jali commission of inquiry into corruption in prisons.

In 2011, he represented the ANCYL leader Julius Malema during the “shoot the Boer” trial.

Soni started out as a journalist at Durban’s Post newspaper.

Noko becomes the first permanent DPP to be appointed in KZN since November 2009 when Shamila Batohi took up an appointment as a senior legal adviser at The Hague.

A series of acting KZN DPPs have since headed justice in the province.

Noko replaced acting KZN DPP Simphiwe Mlotshwa in 2012 amid allegations that her appointment was aimed at securing the dropping of charges against politicians Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni in the “Amigos” trial.

NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson issued a brief statement on behalf of Noko stating that she was very pleased to be permanently appointed. It made no mention of the investigation under way into the rumblings of discontent among a section of her staff.

The NPA national office this month launched an investigation after 32 staff members sent a letter citing numerous grievances.

Sources yesterday said a number of staff members were “unhappy” about Noko’s appointment while the investigation is still in its infancy.

However, another point of view is that the complaints are a political ploy to try to oust Noko.

The IFP said they welcomed all three appointments.

“We urge the new heads to remain unbiased and true to justice in every sense of the word when they take up their new appointments. They must ensure that the prosecutions offices are working around the clock in order have outstanding cases speedily tried in our courts,” Velaphi Ndlovu said.

The DA said it was pleased that the president had honoured his undertaking to the Constitutional Court to make the appointments by the end of August, but voiced concern over Noko’s appointment:

“We are in fact engaged in litigation flowing from her decision to withdraw charges against Speaker Peggy Nkonyeni and MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu in the ‘Amigos’ case,” the party said.

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