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Parliament - The chairman of Parliament's justice portfolio committee on Thursday firmly shielded contested NPA boss Mxolisi Nxasana from MPs' questions on strife besetting the organisation.
“As a chair I have a duty to protect all of you and in this case it was a chance for me to protect the officials against unfair questions,” Mathole Motshekga, a former ANC chief whip, said when opposition MPs objected to the move.
He added that Nxasana and other senior officials could not be expected to “try themselves and convict themselves” regarding reports of infighting in the National Prosecuting Authority.
Nxasana is fighting to hold onto his post after it emerged that former justice minister Jeff Radebe had wanted him to resign because he had failed to get security clearance as he was charged with, and acquitted of, murder in 1985.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha on Wednesday declined to discuss the matter with the committee in any detail, saying that it was in the hands of the president, as only he could appoint or dismiss the NPA's head.
The Democratic Alliance's Werner Horn had tried to ask Nxasana
to respond to remarks to a radio station by the suspended head of the NPA's integrity management unit, Prince Mokotedi, in which he referred to himself as a “so-called Zuma man”.
Mokotedi was suspended last month, reportedly for leaking a report suggesting former NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who is now a DA MP and justice committee member, was guilty of serious misconduct.
Horn asked: “Can the NPA self-correct? What are you doing to try and self-correct, and in terms of the budget can you be trusted as the management of this institution... not to once again expose yourself to all these negative comments from the judiciary?”
Nxasana contented himself with confirming that Mokotedi had been suspended and denying reports that the integrity management unit had been disbanded.
He said Masutha had met senior NPA officials and asked them to refrain from inappropriately commenting to the media about internal staff matters, but rejected opposition claims that the minister had gagged by authority.
The ANC's Vincent Smith backed Motshekga's objection to the opposition's questions, saying Nxasana was appearing before the committee to brief it on the NPA's “budget, not its politics”.
Horn said he wanted the meeting to record his “dismay” with Motshekga's stance. The African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart added: “It is the elephant in the room, with all due respect.”
There have been reports that Nxasana is at loggerheads with his deputy Nomgcobo Jiba.
Jiba was absent from the meeting and Nxasana presented her apologies, saying she had fallen ill on Wednesday night.