The NPA needed to account to me - Simelane

2015-07-14 14:43
Menzi Simelane (Alet Pretorius, Netwerk24)

Menzi Simelane (Alet Pretorius, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - Former National Prosecuting Authority head Menzi Simelane reiterated on Tuesday that his older position of director general of the justice department made him the accounting officer of the NPA, and that it therefore meant the NDPP was accountable to him.

He told his disciplinary inquiry on Tuesday that he and his predecessor as national director of public prosecutions at the NPA, Vusi Pikoli, disagreed about several "issues".

"We felt he could have made the institution more effective than what he was [doing]," Simelane said.

However, one of his biggest disagreements with Pikoli concerned his powers within the NPA. 

"Mr Pikoli's view was that [the director general of the department as the NPA's accounting officer] shouldn't happen because the NPA is independent," he said.

"I still hold the view that the accounting officer is responsible for the administration of the NPA. Therefore the governance of the department of justice included the NPA.

"The head of department [the director general] has to account for all monies received and paid out by the department... also with the NPA."

Legal opinion on role

Simelane's advocate Omphemetse Mooki asked him what matters he did not have a final say on at the NPA.

"The decision to prosecute or not prosecute," he responded.

Simelane said he requested a legal opinion to assist the department in solidifying the role of the justice director general in the NPA.

"[The opinion] says the NPA does not constitute a department, which is correct. It also says it does not constitute part and parcel of the state department, which is incorrect," he said.

"[The NPA] is part of the department of justice and constitutional development."

The disciplinary inquiry panel, which is made up of advocates Sias Reynecke, Daniel Berger and Dali Mpofu, was appointed by the Johannesburg Bar to conduct an investigation into charges of misconduct instituted against Simelane.

The Bar, in its amended charges, argued that Simelane denied obtaining a written legal opinion on his interpretation, as opposed to Pikoli's interpretation relating to the director general's powers, and only admitted to it once it became apparent that Pikoli's legal representatives were in possession of the opinion - which contradicted his own views.

In 2012, the Constitutional Court found the appointment by President Jacob Zuma of Simelane 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 then-national director of public prosecutions 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.

Inquiry

Pikoli was suspended by then president Thabo 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.

The Bar is also arguing that Simelane failed to disclose correspondence between the president and the minister, and the minister and Pikoli, which provided evidence that the minister sought to interfere in the prosecutorial independence of the NPA.

This included a letter drafted by Simelane - from the minister to Pikoli - asking him to stop the arrest of Selebi.

It also 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.

- Online comments on stories 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  |  vusi pikoli  |  menzi simelane  |  politics

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