Simelane lambasted for alleged note-passing during disciplinary

2015-07-15 12:35
The note Menzi Simelane allegedly passed to his lawyer. (Ahmed Areff, News24)

The note Menzi Simelane allegedly passed to his lawyer. (Ahmed Areff, News24)

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Johannesburg - During a barrage of questions in the cross-examination of former NPA head Menzi Simelane on Wednesday, he allegedly passed a note to his attorney asking for help on how to answer.

This is believed to have happened while pro-forma prosecutor Mike Hellens was questioning Simelane on a 2007 letter from the then justice minister Brigitte Mabandla - drafted by him - to former national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli.

The letter called on Pikoli to stop the arrest of former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Hellens stopped mid-question and asked whether Simelane was passing a note to his attorney seated next to him.

"Mr Simelane, is this you asking for help from your attorney?" Hellens asked.

‘Please explain yourself’

He then asked the attorney, Osborne Molatudi, to show the note to the disciplinary hearing, and Molatudi passed the note to Hellens.

"I ignored the note," Molatudi said.

Hellens then read it out.

A copy of the note was later handed to the media. It read: "Is [scratched out words] to clarify/explain or should I say yes/no/disagree?"

"I was making notes to refer to during the break," Simelane attempted to explain.

One of the advocates for the disciplinary panel, Sias Reynecke, asked Simelane to "please explain yourself" while another, Daniel Berger, asked him: "Are you aware you are not allowed to speak to your legal representatives during cross-examination?"

Simelane said he was making the note so that he could consult with his "friends".

Reynecke then asked: "How do you consult people on your evidence?"

Assisting in gathering documents - Simelane

Simelane said he was not consulting on his evidence, but rather was assisting people on how to gather documents that did not appear in the hearing's records.

"There are documents - that process of trying to find those documents is on-going. I am engaging with people on how best to assist."

Hellens asked: "As a former national director of public prosecutions, it is acceptable in your view for a witness undergoing cross-examination to go and discuss his evidence - to choose the style and strategy that questions must be answered [with]?"

Simelane maintained this was not the case here.

"Surely there is one truthful answer?" Hellens asked.

"Your attorney said he ignored it, that means he was conscious of it," he said.

Molatudi said he noticed it while turning pages for Simelane at this desk.

Hellens said that if a strategy was employed on how to "tell the truth", it would imply that someone was being untruthful.

Simelane disagreed with that as well.

ConCourt found Simelane’s appointment invalid

The disciplinary panel was appointed by the Johannesburg Bar to conduct an investigation into charges of misconduct instituted against Simelane.

In its amended charges, the Bar argued that Simelane failed to disclose correspondence at the Ginwala Inquiry between then president Thabo Mbeki and Mabandla, and the minister and Pikoli, which provided evidence that the minister sought to interfere in the prosecutorial independence of the NPA.
It argued that the documents and facts were relevant to Pikoli's suspension - which Simelane conceded under oath - but failed to include them in government's submission to the inquiry.

In 2012, the Constitutional Court found that Simelane's appointment, by President Jacob Zuma, as national director of public prosecutions was invalid.

Simelane was appointed NPA boss in 2009.

The Constitutional Court found that Zuma had failed to consider evidence before him, including the findings of the Ginwala Inquiry into the conduct of Pikoli and the findings of a public service commission report when appointing Simelane – rendering the president's decision "irrational".

Simelane, in his capacity as justice director general, was, according to the ruling, "intimately involved" in a dispute over the proper role of Pikoli and the powers and duties of the justice minister.

Pikoli was suspended by Mbeki in September 2007 after pursuing corruption charges against then-police commissioner Jackie Selebi. On October 3, Mbeki instituted a commission of inquiry, chaired by former Speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala, into Pikoli's fitness to hold office.

Simelane had presented the government's evidence, under oath, at the commission. Ginwala subsequently criticised "with some severity" Simelane's approach to giving evidence and its credibility.

- Online comments on articles relating to this hearing have been disabled, as per an order of the disciplinary inquiry in which media houses were granted access to the hearing.

Read more on:    npa  |  ndpp  |  vusi pikoli  |  menzi simelane  |  pretoria

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