Pretoria - ANC MP Luwellyn Landers added his voice to concerns about the delay in appointing a permanent National Prosecuting Authority boss in Parliament on Wednesday, saying it was “in desperate need” of a national director to remove any perceptions it was “rudderless and in crisis”.
The chairman of Parliament’s justice oversight committee, Landers said the committee was concerned about the length of time it was taking to appoint a permanent national prosecutions head.
His comments appeared to raise the hackles of his party colleague, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Andries Nel, who defended acting prosecutions head Nomgcobo Jiba.
Earlier, Nel, who was responding to questions on behalf of Justice Minister Jeff Radebe who is abroad, told MPs President Jacob Zuma had not yet approached the minister for advice on the appointment of a new head of the NPA.
Jiba has been acting national director of public prosecutions since Menzi Simelane was put on special leave in December last year, following a Supreme Court of Appeal finding that his appointment had been “irrational” and “unconstitutional”.
This was because Zuma had ignored findings of the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry that questioned Simelane’s integrity when he appointed him prosecutions boss, two days after Radebe had rejected a Public Service Commission recommendation that Simelane face disciplinary action.
The Constitutional Court upheld the Supreme Court of Appeal finding last month, ruling out the possibility of Simelane’s return to office.
DA spokeswoman on justice Dene Smuts wanted to know whether Radebe would again recommend a “candidate whose CV or work history contains unresolved disciplinary issues”, noting there were similar concerns about Jiba.
“Will the honourable minister once again ignore such issues?” she asked. “The honourable minister seems to approve of appointing prosecuting heads with disciplinary clouds hanging over their head. I don’t need to spell out to [Nel] that our courts have now said that objective jurisdictional facts must demonstrate fitness and propriety of an NDPP in order to demonstrate their integrity, conscientiousness and experience,” Smuts said.
Nel dismissed Smuts’s question as supporting “political points which she has scored elsewhere”, but it was a supplementary question from Landers which appeared to rattle him.
Landers asked: “Would [Nel] agree that the outcomes of the cases against Radovan Krejcir, Andrew Phillips and Dave King - together with abuse of the plea-bargain system which resulted in self-confessed murderers, hitmen and drug kingpins like Glen Agliotti, Nigel McGurk, among others, going free, are clear indications that the [NPA] is in desperate need of a national director - if only to remove any perception that the NPA is rudderless and in crisis?”
But Nel could only emphasise that the NPA did “not consist of the national director of public prosecutions and the national director of public prosecutions alone”.
“I think [Jiba] has been conducting [NPA] affairs strictly in terms of the constitution and the law,” he said.