The real NDPP culprits

2014-06-01 15:00

South Africa’s national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), Mxolisi Nxasana, killed someone. It was 30 years ago. At the time, the court found he had acted in self-defence and acquitted him of murder.

Nobody seems to have known this before he was appointed by President Jacob Zuma last September. This despite the fact that the position had been vacant since the end of 2012 when a damning Constitutional Court judgment forced Menzi Simelane out of office.

Zuma and the then justice minister, Jeff Radebe, had nearly a year to find a “fit and proper person” for the post.

It may be recalled that the October 2012 court judgment found Zuma had acted irrationally in appointing Simelane as his conduct at the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry, and its findings had raised questions about his honesty, integrity and credibility.

The judgment stated strongly that the NDPP had to be a “fit and proper person” in the view of the Constitution and not just “in the objective opinion of the president”.

It stated: “The president?...?should have been alerted by the adverse findings of the Ginwala commission against Mr Simelane and ought to have initiated a further investigation for the purpose of determining whether real and important questions had been raised about his honesty and conscientiousness.”

When Zuma and Radebe went looking for Simelane’s successor, they had the benefit of this judgment to guide them. Instead, they were guided by the need to find a weak and pliable individual.

They overlooked the country’s rich stock of accomplished lawyers and settled for Nxasana.

Without doing any background checks, they catapulted him from his tiny practice into this powerful job. Only nine months later did it come to their attention that the nation’s chief prosecutor once killed a man.

Nxasana is not the culprit for withholding the information. He correctly says he believed the matter was dead and buried because he was acquitted.

The culprits are Zuma and Radebe, who put political considerations above constitutional imperatives when appointing Nxasana.

Had they followed the nation’s supreme law and the lucid and unambiguous 2012 judgment, this crisis would have been averted.

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