Radebe puts AFU plans on hold

2010-04-29 18:55

Cape Town - Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has put on hold controversial plans by national prosecutions chief Menzi Simelane to decentralise the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

"The decision was that it was premature to proceed on the basis of the suggested plan," justice spokesperson Tlali Tlali said after Radebe and Simelane met in Pretoria on Thursday.

"The AFU will not be disbanded or be dissolved. Mr (Willie) Hofmeyr will continue to be the unit's head," he added.

Simelane earlier this month caused shockwaves when he unveiled a strategic five-year plan for the NPA which envisions making the AFU and three other specialised units report to provincial prosecuting chiefs.

It would curtail the independence of Hofmeyr and other unit chiefs, including Anton Ackermann of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, and see them serve forthwith as special advisors to Simelane.

Performance delivery contract

A puzzled-looking Radebe last week told MPs that he had been kept in the dark about the details of the plan and would seek a special meeting with Simelane to get clarity about his intentions.

Tlali said the hour-long meeting had focused on the AFU.

He said the reason why Radebe was not ready to endorse the strategic plan was linked to the terms of the performance delivery contract the justice cluster was due to sign with President Jacob Zuma.

"Certain processes (are) still underway around which the NPA and its components will play a significant role.

"These processes have to do with co-ordination of government work that involves measured performance outcomes ... The NPA is expected to contribute to some of these measurable delivery outcomes."

Hofmeyr must choose

Tlali said however that an ultimatum to Hofmeyr to choose between heading the AFU and the Special Investigations Unit still stood.

"He still has to (choose)," he said.

Hofmeyr has held down both posts since 2001, but Simelane recently told him he had to resign from one of them.

Radebe told reporters that, unlike the details of the strategic plan, he was briefed about the ultimatum.

Opposition parties have been up in arms over the plan tabled by the new national director of public prosecutions, who in his earlier post of director general of justice presided over the dismantling of the Directorate of Special Investigations, known as the Scorpions.

The Democratic Alliance charged that he was seeking to "disband" the AFU and warned that his restructuring plans would prove the "ruination" of the NPA.

Though the party has often called for the Constitution to be changed to remove a provision giving the justice minister final authority over the NPA, it said in this instance Radebe should use that power to halt Simelane's project.

NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke confirmed that Radebe had to sign off on the strategic plan and said he had not done so.