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Johannesburg - Tensions in the National Prosecuting Authority have turned so ugly that junior staff members are caught in the crossfire as the simmering battle for power between new prosecutions chief Mxolisi Nxasana and his predecessor, Nomgcobo Jiba, rages on.
At the centre of it all is Jackie Lepinka, former executive assistant to Jiba, who was locked out of her office in Pretoria hardly a week after Nxasana took over.
A junior clerk was apparently told to pack and redeployed to another unit because – according to union sources – Nxasana wanted nothing to do with Jiba’s closest aides.
Lepinka’s union took up the matter and wrote to Department of Justice director-general Nonkululeko Sindane, who is the accounting officer for the NPA.
The Public Servants Association has written to Sindane claiming that NPA chief executive Karen van Rensburg had instructed Lepinka to vacate Nxasana’s office at Victoria & Griffiths Mxenge building in Silverton, Tshwane.
Van Rensburg said on Saturday that she had nothing to add to comments made by Nxasana’s spokesman.
The association’s official, Johan van Blommestein, confirmed the complaint, but would not go into the details of it.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Mthunzi Mhaga said Sindane’s office received the association’s written complaint and would respond once she had read it.
The Sunday Independent understands that Nxasana’s reason for dumping Lepinka was that he wanted to hire a personal assistant of his choice.
Nxasana wants a PA who is compatible with him and his vision for the NPA. But the union argues that PAs’ contracts were not linked to their bosses’ terms of office.
Strangely, Nxasana also wants a PA who is fully vetted.
Last week, The Sunday Independent reported that Nxasana did not have a security clearance.
Two weeks ago, Lepinka was refused entry into the building, and a security official told her he had been ordered not to allow her inside the building.
The association says the NPA disabled her access to the main entrance and the door leading to her work station.
She was also informed that her access had been stopped and door locks changed. Lepinka’s personal belongings were packed in a box and removed from her office.
Lepinka has been with the NPA for seven years, having joined the organisation in December 2006.
According to the association’s letter, the instruction came from Nxasana, and Lepinka was given 15 minutes to vacate the new boss’s office.
Lepinka is a long-serving executive assistant in the office of the prosecutions chief, having served four acting and national directors – Vusi Pikoli, Mokotedi Mpshe, Menzi Simelane and Jiba.
A top NPA manager apparently suggested that Lepinka be placed on special leave when she said she wanted to be given reasonable time to apply her mind on being redeployed, consult the association, and discuss the instruction with Nxasana.
Nxasana’s spokesman, Nathi Mncube, said the association was well versed in the internal NPA processes.
“This is an internal matter and it would be inappropriate and unprocedural to deal with it in the media.”