NPA defends prosecutor move
Johannesburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) defended its plans to send senior prosecutors to lower courts, saying on Tuesday this was part of a plan to boost struggling lower courts.
"The fact of the matter is that the changes to prosecutor allocation and redeployment of senior prosecutors to courts, especially in the lower courts, is in support of the strategy to address the dearth of skills in the organisation, and redistributing resources where they are needed most," the authority said.
At least one of the 14 prosecutors, chief state prosecutor Andre Lambrecht, intends challenging his move from a managerial position to a lower court, feeling that it coincided with his refusal not to oppose bail in musician Jub Jub's drunken driving case.
He is also aggrieved that the move was very sudden and plans to ask for his old job back.
However, the NPA insists that the reshuffle is part of its "Strategic Plan for 2010 - 2015", which is being finalised for submission to the Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development, and to Parliament.
The document will outline challenges like the resourcing of the lower courts, regarded as a "real threat" to service delivery in the courts.
The NPA feels that senior prosecutors' skills would be better used in the lower courts, where most crimes are heard, and cases are led by mainly inexperienced prosecutors, instead of them doing administrative work.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions has asked directors of public prosecutions to identify courts that need such a boost, as well as experienced prosecutors, including directors, who can be redeployed.
"These are prosecutors - their duty and obligation to the country is to institute criminal proceedings in court, and to handle any other work incidental thereto."
The authority denied that these were demotions, and said people who felt that way believed they could better serve the prosecutions service "sitting in their offices dealing with administrative matters".
"However, that cannot work for the organisation - the skills of prosecutors are best utilised and serve the country the most, in court."
The plan will also take into account transformation issues like racial demographics, to address past imbalances.
But the African Christian Democratic Party said NDPP Menzi Simelane must explain himself, suggesting that some of the redeployments could be for revenge.
They pointed out that Mutuwa Nengovhela, was part of the prosecution team in the rape trial of President Jacob Zuma.
He was a deputy director at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg and was moved the Family Court.
"This decision smacks of revenge and requires an explanation," said ACDP MP Steve Swart.
Zuma was acquitted in that case.
A report in The Star suggested that the bid not to oppose bail for Jub Jub could be linked to his campaigning for the ruling ANC during last year's election.
It also felt that the move would be a blow for prosecutors, already reeling from the disbanding of the Scorpions last year, which had their own unit of investigating prosecutors.
The disbanding of the Scorpions was regarded by some observers as a response to their pursuit of Zuma on corruption charges.
That case was abandoned shortly before Zuma became president.