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Parliament - Justice Minister Michael Masutha on Wednesday called for an end to infighting at the National Prosecuting Authority, but added that he saw the first priority at the troubled body as resolving the fate of prosecuting chief Mxolisi Nxasana.
“We have identified the issues around the NDPP as the first priority in dealing with the whole broader issue of management in the NPA, which has been widely publicised,” Masutha said in his first briefing to Parliament's justice portfolio committee.
“I think it is only fair that we deal with one issue at a time,” he added.
“I am sure that once the issue has been resolved relating to the NDPP either way, and I do not want to give the impression here that the matter will be resolved in one direction or the other... all other matters relating to the management of the NPA will also be looked at.”
Masutha made clear that the decision on whether to retain Nxasana in his post as national director of public prosecutions lay with President Jacob Zuma, who appointed him in October last year.
It emerged last month that former justice minister Jeff Radebe had asked Nxasana to resign because he had failed to disclose that he was charged with murder in 1985 and acquitted on grounds of self-defence.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that Nxasana is at loggerheads with his deputy Nomgcobo Jiba.
Masutha was responding to a question from former NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who has become an MP for the Democratic Alliance after a long and bitter labour dispute with her employer.
She maintains the dispute stemmed from her determination to prosecute suspended police crime intelligence boss Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli.
The DA said last month it believed Nxasana was targeted because he allowed corruption and fraud charges against Mdluli to be reinstated.
Breytenbach's fellow DA MP James Selfe said the jury was out on Nxasana's credibility, but he believed government was using his case to obscure deeper problems at the NPA.
Masutha told MPs the ministry had met senior management at the prosecuting authority and called for calm while the presidency mulled the Nxasana matter to prevent a loss of public confidence in the NPA.
“What we did to stabilise the situation there was to meet with all the senior managers to say that in the interest of maintaining stability in the institution, if you like, let's have a cessation of hostilities for the time being.
“People should desist even using statutory powers that they have to take disciplinary action against certain people. People should stop approaching the newspapers and stop saying all sorts of ugly things about each other.”
Selfe asked Masutha whether he would consider using section 33(2) of the National Prosecuting Act to request a report on the so-called spy-tapes. The DA had sought the tapes for the past five years to obtain transcripts of the recordings that led to the withdrawal in 2008 of fraud charges against Zuma.
“Could I ask him to obtain such a report and then lay that report before this committee?”
The Supreme Court of Appeal is expected to clarify next month what the NPA needs to hand to the DA, notably whether this includes the spy tapes and internal discussions on the case.
The DA maintains these are included, while the president argues the contrary.
Masutha answered he would consider whether such a report would be constructive within the context of the case.
The case is a bid by the DA to show that the NPA's decision to drop the charges was unsound. If the opposition were to succeed, it raises the spectre of these being reinstated.