Johannesburg - It’s spring cleaning time.
That’s the message from Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha, who has undertaken to tackle the problems plaguing his department – in particular the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) – head on.
Masutha has made the controversy-plagued NPA his priority in the newly reconfigured department at the centre of the security cluster.
He said the department’s brief should not just be about crime prevention and tackling corruption. “Yes, we should lead in that regard and in that end I have indicated to both departments it’s spring cleaning time. Any tenders that have been awarded improperly must be investigated. If fault is found, that must be corrected.”
The minister was briefing the justice and correctional services oversight committee on Wednesday, where he gave a political overview of some of the challenges facing his department, from the NPA to overcrowded prisons and corruption.
“We have identified the issue of resolving the issues around the NDPP (National Director of Public Prosecutions) as the first priority in dealing with the whole broader issue of management in the NPA, which has been widely publicised,” he said.
Masutha was referring to the issues surrounding the NDPP and head of the NPA Mxolisi Nxasana..
Nxasana was reportedly called to a late-night meeting by then justice minister Jeff Radebe and instructed to resign, just days before President Jacob Zuma announced his new cabinet.
Nxasana was accused of failing to disclose his acquittal in a 1985 murder case when he was 18. He was told he had been denied top secret security clearance for failing to declare the information.
Masutha said before members of the NPA prosecuted anybody “you must look at yourself in the mirror and say am I clean?”.
He added that “given its challenges at the helm”, the NPA had no choice but to deal with the issues surrounding Nxasana.
“Those matters as I reported are in hand and are being dealt with, starting with seeking to resolve the challenges associated with the head of the NPA, which have been widely reported on.
“I believe that he (Nxasana) really can’t deal effectively with all the other lower levels of command without having first resolved the very top position situation.
“So I think at best what we can do to assist the process is to be patient enough to allow those processes to run their course.”
On fighting corruption, Masutha said this was clearly articulated in ANC policies.
“Even if it’s my uncle involved, please don’t call me and ask if you should arrest him or not. Let me also read about it in the paper the following day like everybody. I don’t carry a briefcase full of tenders, full of jobs for anybody; comrades, friends, relatives. All South Africans should be treated fairly, equitably.”
Opposition parties said they were encouraged by Masutha’s comments about dealing with the NPA and cleaning up the department.
DA MP James Selfe told the meeting that he welcomed “warmly” Masutha’s comments that there would be some “spring cleaning” taking place.
“The minister gave a very encouraging speech here today and we look forward to working very closely with him and his deputies.”
He said he was “absolutely encouraged” by him.
“But it will be a challenge for him to translate that noble undertaking into concrete action. He has got a big mountain to climb.”
Former NPA prosecutor and DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach congratulated Masutha before wishing him “lots and lots of luck”.
“I’ve got many questions but the one more pressing is the one regarding the NPA.
“You have said very encouragingly you have told them to look in the mirror to check whether they’re clean.
“I think we all agree that it’s a vital institution which is currently undergoing huge problems,” she said.