Simelane executing plans - claim
Johannesburg - National Public Prosecutions boss Menzi Simelane has started implementing radical changes to the operations of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), despite Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s insistence that no plans had been finalised on the unit’s future.
The NPA said last week the unit would stay and that the word “disbanded” was a typographical error.
But sources say Simelane’s about-turn could be because of the minister’s reaction at being kept in the dark about the proposals.
Radebe told Parliament last week he was unaware of Simelane’s mooted “realignment plan” for the AFU. The two will meet this week.
Sources have suggested that Simelane “jumped the gun” by going public with the plans.
Reporting and accountability
Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, said on Saturday: “As a matter of law and of procedure, any decision of such a nature with policy implications must be brought before the minister. Any message that may have been communicated in this regard is merely a proposal.
“No such decision has been taken at this stage.”
But sources told City Press last week that the restructuring process was well under way. The sources insisted the so-called “draft” restructuring plans had been operational since the beginning of April.
Two weeks ago Simelane presented the plan to Parliament. Among other things, he proposed the dissolution of the AFU. In terms of the new plan, all AFU staff and investigators would report to the regional Deputy Directors of Public Prosecutions (DDPP).
However, in an exclusive interview last week, current AFU head Willie Hofmeyr said it was never Simelane’s intention to get rid of the unit, but “to ensure a level of reporting and accountability”.
Emphasising the document was a draft awaiting ministerial approval, Hofmeyr described the choice of the word “disband” as “unfortunate” and “not a word the NPA discussed” in its various deliberations on the unit’s future.
On page 37 of the strategic plan, under the AFU section, is the following: “Although the specialised support function of asset forfeiture resides in a separate sub-programme, the unit has been disbanded and included as a division in the regional offices.”
Hofmeyr retains his position as head of the AFU, but nobody reports to him. A directive has also been issued for all AFU investigators seconded to the Special Investigations Unit to return to their desks.
Hofmeyr said that there were potential positive outcomes from the proposed new model, such as training more staff in specialised asset forfeiture processes, as well as being able to access greater “buy-in” from the DDPP to take on important cases. But he acknowledged the new structure could introduce more bureaucracy and possibly even reduce efficacy.
“It’s about how not to lose the benefits of having one single, coherent organisation,” said Hofmeyr.
The plans have been criticised in several quarters as an attempt to “hollow out the capacity” of an already well-run, functional and effective unit. But the NPA argues the new structures will improve service delivery.