Government is NPA's boss - Zuma

2009-12-14 14:15

Johannesburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must report to the government because some of its decisions have "implications", President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

"The NPA reports to government; it's not a thing flying in the sky on its own - unconnected - and there are decisions... that have implications and that's why we have a department [of justice]," Zuma said in an interview on Talk Radio 702.

He was responding to questions about the appointment of former justice director-general (DG) Menzi Simelane, who has came under fire after a commission of inquiry found he tried to interfere in the NPA's work.

Simelane wrote a letter to the former chief prosecutor Vusi Pikoli instructing him not to proceed with the arrest and prosecution of ex top cop Jackie Selebi.

The letter was signed by the then justice minister Brigitte Mabandla.

The Pretoria Bar Council is currently considering a complaint against Simelane's appointment as new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), directly related to the finding by the Ginwala Commission that he tried to interfere in the NPA's work.

But Zuma - who himself was once the subject of an NPA investigation - defended Simelane's appointment, saying it was not negotiable that the NPA reported to the government.

"Between the NPA and the justice ministry, there's been a running debate. That debate was there between [ex chief prosecutor Bulelani] Ngcuka and [Vusi] Pikoli when Pikoli was DG... who is in charge?

'Menzi would not do a thing without the minister'

"That debate has been there all the time. It's not started with Menzi."

Pikoli was director-general of the justice department before he became chief prosecutor. But he was fired as chief prosecutor by ousted president Thabo Mbeki, in a move Pikoli has always said was related to the decision to charge Selebi with corruption.

Referring to the letter about Selebi's prosecution, Zuma said: "Menzi would not do a thing without the minister."

Opposition party leader Patricia de Lille phoned in during the radio interview, saying she agreed with Zuma on that and questioned why her year-old complaint against Mabandla had not been considered.

De Lille said her complaint would test whether it was a criminal offence to interfere with the NPA.

"I totally agree with you... it is not correct... for us not to respond. It's wrong. I'm hoping Simelane would apply his mind," replied Zuma.

"It is an important test case and we must look at it."

Zuma added that he himself would never interfere in the NPA.

"I will never do it... there will never be an example to quote [in the media]... There's a wrong system we need to fix which other people abused," he said.