Hard questions over Simelane

2012-05-09 00:00

CONSTITUTIONAL Hill proved to be more of a mountain for Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s legal team yesterday.

Advocate Marumo Moerane, representing Radebe, had to weather difficult questions about President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Menzi Simelane as prosecutions boss.

The questioning, which saw the court go more than 30 minutes over Moerane’s allotted time for arguments, related to the rationality of Simelane’s appointment by Zuma.

Centre stage were the “serious allegations” that had been levelled against Simelane by the Ginwala Inquiry, a presidential inquiry into the fitness of former NPA boss Vusi Pikoli to hold office.

At the time, Simelane was director-general of the Department of Justice.

Judge Johan Froneman asked why a person “who is controversial would be the first and only person that the president considers?”

“I have difficulty in finding a rational decision in that,” he said.

He was referring to argument by the DA that Zuma had only consulted with Radebe on Simelane and had not seriously considered any other, less controversial candidate.

Moerane responded that it was “not really any other persons’s choice, the Constitution gives the president that power”.

Moerane said: “If he has his eye on one person it is his choice to appoint that person … whether Jack or Jill or the DA agrees with him or not.”

But Moerane, responding to a question by acting deputy chief justice Zak Yacoob, conceded that if the accusations against Simelane in the Ginwala report were correct, they would have an impact on the appointment.

Yacoob then asked if Moerane was saying the findings of the Ginwala report were accurate but that the president had chosen to appoint Simelane regardless because he “was still a very nice guy, or do they say these findings are wrong?”.

Moerane explained that the Ginwala Commission was not “a judicial commission of inquiry”.

“We are dealing here with a commission chaired by a politician, the normal rules of evidence do not apply.”

Moerane explained that Radebe and Zuma did not accept the inquiry “as gospel”.

But Owen Rogers, senior counsel for the DA, later pointed out that Zuma had, in an earlier affidavit, accepted the Ginwala Commission’s findings as “unblemished”.

The 2007 inquiry has been a central part of the DA’s challenge against Zuma’s appointment of Simelane.

This was because Simelane failed to disclose to Pikoli’s lawyers that then president Thabo Mbeki had written a letter to then justice minister Bridgette Mabandla about the prosecution of ex-police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

The letter asked her to obtain the “necessary information” about the criminal investigation into Selebi.

Simelane, however, told Pikoli’s lawyers no such document existed, only subsequently admitting he knew of the president’s letter.

David Unterhalter SC, who appeared on behalf of Simelane, said it was “permissible” for the minister to procure information about a pending prosecution because it had important policy considerations.

“It was a pretty extraordinary arrest … with knock-on effects on how to co-ordinate security structures in the country.”

The proceedings before the Constitutional Court yesterday come after the Supreme Court of Appeal found in December that the process followed by Zuma in a appointing Simelane was “irrational” because he ignored the Ginwala Inquiry.

In a unanimous judgment, written by Judge Mahomed Navsa, the court accepted “that the president must have a multitude of daily duties and is a very busy man”.

“However, when he is dealing with an office as important as that of the NDPP, [National Director of Public Prosecutions] which is integral to the rule of law and to our success as a democracy, then time should be taken to get it right.”

The DA is now asking the Constitutional Court to confirm the order setting aside Simelane’s appointment.

Radebe and Simelane are opposing this. The Constitutional Court will deliver judgment on the matter in the next few months.

— City Press.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.