Simelane defended

2010-11-12 00:00

THERE is no legal bar to National Prosecuting Authority head Menzi Simelane leading the prosecution against top officials charged in the recent multi-million rand hospital tender fraud and corruption matters.

Neither is the move by Simelane to take charge personally of the prosecution of the high-profile case viewed as especially unusual in legal circles, despite questions being raised about his suitability and capability as a prosecutor.

It has been pointed out that many provincial attorneys-general (now directors of public prosecutions) have been known to step outside their management roles to appear in court to lead prosecutions viewed as high-profile or politically sensitive.

Examples in KwaZulu-Natal include the prosecution of former defence minister Magnus Malan and others for the KwaMakutha massacre of 1987, which was led by the then attorney-general, Tim McNally SC; the prosecution headed by the then attorney-general, Cecil Rees SC, of Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare and his band of mercenaries who hijacked an Air India Boeing during a failed coup attempt in the Seychelles; and the prosecution of former New Hanover police commander Brian Mitchell for the 1988 Trust Feed massacre of 11 people, which was led by the then attorney-general, Mike Imber SC.

Simelane’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Mhaga, has said the move by Simelane to personally lead the corruption case is part of the NDPP’s “hands-on approach and intention to lead by example”. Leading former and incumbent state officials and businessmen, including Northern Cape ANC leader John Block and ex-KZN provincial treasury head Sipho Shabalala, are among the accused.

The ANC Youth League in the Northern Cape was taken to task by the ANC leadership recently for referring to Simelane as a “rented dog of a political conspiracy”, after the arrest and corruption charges brought against Block.

On Wednesday a bid by the Democratic Alliance to have Simelane removed as being unfit to hold the post of National Director of Public Prosecutions was dismissed by the high court in Pretoria .

Professor Karthy Govender, professor of constitutional law and human rights litigation at the University of KZN, said that as the head of the NPA, Simelane is legally within his rights to undertake any prosecution.

“In the past the former provincial attorneys-general used to prosecute high-profile cases quite often. “He [Simelane] may be hoping he can put some of the concerns about his ability to prosecute … members of the ruling party to bed,” said Govender.

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