Zuma can restore NPA credibility - expert

2012-10-05 22:18
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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has an opportunity to appoint a new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to restore the credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority, an expert said on Friday.

"The judgment by the Constitutional Court provides an opportunity to restore the credibility of the NPA by appointing someone who is non-political and non-partisan, a person that will not tolerate any improper conduct," said law expert Pierre de Vos.

The Constitutional Court found on Friday that Zuma's appointment of Menzi Simelane as NDPP was unconstitutional and invalid.

In a judgment read by Judge Zak Yacoob, the court found that the NDPP's appointment was not a matter to be determined by the subjective opinion of Zuma, but a "jurisdictional prerequisite" determined objectively.

"The purpose of the conferral of the power to appoint the NDPP on the president was to ensure that the appointee was sufficiently conscientious and had the integrity required to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office," Yacoob said.

On May 8, the court heard an application by the Democratic Alliance to confirm a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that the decision to employ Simelane was invalid.

He was appointed to the job in November 2009.

De Vos said questions were asked about on why Zuma was advised to appoint Simelane by Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe, who ignored the evidence against him

"From the perspective of the presidency, it would be helpful if a reasonable answer is provided for the irrational decision that was taken," said De Vos.

"If the president takes the considerations seriously, he might restore the NPA's credibility and their functionality."

On Friday afternoon, the presidency said it was studying the judgment.

"The presidency respects and will abide by the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in our democracy," spokesperson Mac Maharaj said.

DA leader Helen Zille told reporters that the NDPP should not be a "politicised appointment who can do the bidding of the president or the political executive. The office should be entirely independent", she said.

"Otherwise, the risk is that the political party in power can abuse that power and use the law to persecute and not prosecute their political enemies."

Zille said Zuma should consult senior jurists and other people in the law fraternity before appointing a new NDPP.

Questions raised

Justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said in a statement: "We are naturally disappointed with the judgment... We will abide by same as the Constitutional Court is the final arbiter on these issues."

The report of the Ginwala commission of inquiry into Simelane's predecessor Vusi Pikoli's fitness to hold office had raised concerns about Simelane's understanding of the relationship between the justice department, where he was director general, and the NPA.

Ginwala, in her 2008 report, found his testimony contradictory and without basis in fact or law.

Yacoob said Simelane was evaluated in terms of the Ginwala inquiry and his evidence.

"[We] conclude that the evidence was contradictory and, on its face, indicative of Mr Simelane's honesty. It raises serious questions about Mr Simelane's conscientiousness, integrity, and credibility.

"A failure to take into account relevant material that colours the entire process with irrationality will render the decision irrational."

"The purpose of the conferral of the power to appoint the NDPP on the president was to ensure that the appointee was sufficiently conscientious and had the integrity required to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office.

"Dishonesty is inconsistent with the conscientiousness and integrity required for the proper execution of the responsibilities of a National Director of Public Prosecutions."

The justice minister was ordered to pay the DA's legal costs.

Mhaga said the department was pleased with the decision that Simelane's decisions taken while he was NDPP would remain valid.

- SAPA
Read more on:    da  |  npa  |  helen zille  |  pierre de vos  |  jacob zuma  |  menzi simelane  |  jeff radebe
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