Simelane fails to report to Parliament

2011-10-12 14:22

National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane infuriated MPs yesterday by not turning up to answer questions on the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) yearly report.

Simelane was notified of the meeting with Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice on September 30, but cancelled yesterday because he was going abroad, the committee heard.

ANC MP John Jeffery said it was unacceptable that not only had Simelane failed to attend despite being given nearly a fortnight’s notice, but that the prosecuting authority’s chief financial officer was also absent.

“Twelve days isn’t bad,” he said.

Committee chairperson Luwellyn Landers said he shared these sentiments and allowed the meeting to continue only so as not to let the travel costs of Simelane’s deputy Nomgcobo Jiba and the director general of justice Nonkuleleko Sindane go to waste.

“I must agree with Mr Jeffery. Regrettably this is not the first time. Maybe this is shows an attitude of ‘well, there is no need for us to engage Parliament’,” Landers said.

“If this is the attitude taken, it is in their interest to dispel it as soon as possible.”

Simelane was said to be in Rwanda representing Justice Minister Jeff Radebe at an international conference on the death penalty.

Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts said sending Sindane to stand in for him at the committee briefing showed that Simelane did not see the NPA as an independent body, but as part of the justice ministry.

“This goes to the heart of the matter. It goes back all the way to the Vusi Pikoli saga ... to Simelane’s conceptualisation of his role as DG. The NPA is now back in the hands of the department.”

The Ginwala inquiry into former NPA boss Pikoli’s fitness for office suggested that Simelane, then director general of justice, possibly contravened the NPA Act by instructing Pikoli to abort the imminent arrest of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Simelane’s absence meant MPs could not get answers to their questions on the status of criminal investigations against Asset Forfeiture Unit head Willie Hofmeyr.

Jiba said she did not know.

“We expected that this would happen,” Landers remarked.

It emerged in July that Simelane had referred to the police corruption allegations against Hofmeyr, also the head of the Special Investigating Unit, by billionaire tax evasion suspect Dave King.

This contributed to reports of tension between Simelane and Hofmeyr and prompted Radebe to meet with them to assess the situation.

Hofmeyr said today that it seemed that Simelane’s controversial plans to restructure specialised units within the NPA, including the AFU, to make them less autonomous appeared to be largely on hold.

The NPA received an unqualified audit for the first time in four years, but MPs had a barrage of questions on its annual report.

These included the authority’s high vacancy rate, its increasing use of informal mediation, and the moratorium on sexual offences statistics.

Jeffery questioned the “pretty large” figure of 81 000 cases that were concluded through informal mediation, a practice Simelane promotes.

He said it should be regulated and such cases should not be reported as finalised, but as removed from the court roll because they were distorting the NPA’s statistics.

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