DA slams Simelane defence

2009-11-30 18:19

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance on Monday called Justice Minister Jeff Radebe's attempts to defend the appointment of Menzi Simelane as National Director of Public Prosecutions, "wrong-headed
and disingenuous".

Natasha Michael, the party's deputy spokesperson on justice, said: "The appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) should be beyond reproach, and Adv Simelane's appointment certainly has been a very bad start."

Radebe, she said "argued that Simelane had not breached the Public Service Commissions code of conduct, was 'a fit and proper person' to lead the NPA and that the 'attack on the credibility of Simelane was without foundation'."

Instead she quotes an exchange from the Ginwala inquiry in which Simelane makes it clear that he does not recognise the constitutional fact that the National Prosecuting Authority is independent from the state.

Critical evidence

"This exchange is the most critical piece of evidence to emerge from the inquiry," she said.

"To cut a long story short, Menzi Simelane believes that the NPA should answer to the Minister of Justice.

"Inherent in that belief is the possibility that the minister would be able to influence, whether directly or indirectly, the decisions taken by the NPA with regards to which cases it should prosecute and which cases it should not.

ANC interests

"It also suggests that Adv Simelane is executive-minded and his initial position is to defer to members of the executive. This is deeply problematic because a great many of the cases before the NPA involve, whether directly or indirectly, members of the ruling party.

"And if the ANC executive is able to influence who the NPA pursues, it will undoubtedly act to protect its own interests. Certainly this kind of behaviour has defined its attitude to date."

She points out that the Constitutional Court has set out the nature of the relationship between the NPA and the government - that there is a "constitutional guarantee of independence".

"This fact is not a matter of dispute or debate, it is a legal and democratic requirement and the Minister of Justice and the President are obliged to ensure it is upheld," she said.

"The appointment of Adv Simelane runs against this requirement."

'Simelane a liar'

Meanwhile, Independent Democrats leader, Patricia de Lille, has described Radebe's media conference as "a futile spin exercise".

"No amount of spinning by the justice minister will convince South Africans that Advocate Simelane is a fit and proper person for this esteemed position," she said.

"The fact of the matter is that Simelane lied under oath during the Ginwala Commission.

"A judicial officer should have integrity and be honest at all times, but here is someone that lied under oath and therefore fails hopelessly to meet the Constitutional requirements."

At some stage Simelane is likely to have to make a decision on whether or not to prosecute his former boss, Brigitte Mabandla, who as the then justice minister wrote to Vusi Pikoli, the then national director of public prosecutions, telling him to halt his prosecution of police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

The Ginwala inquiry reckoned that this could be considered a breach of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, and De Lille promptly laid a charge against Mabandla.