Cape Town - Justice Minister Michael Masutha wants the National Prosecuting Authority to stop airing its dirty linen in public while prosecutions boss Mxolisi Nxasana’s future is determined.
Nxasana remains in his post while a “liaison with the office of the president” is under way to determine a fair, legal and constitutionally correct course of action, said Masutha on Monday. He declined to set a time limit for the process.
“Upon the president’s return from sick leave… we should be able to finalise the matter as soon as possible.”
Last month Nxasana refused to resign, after it emerged he had failed to get top security clearance for allegedly not disclosing past brushes with the law. Instead Nxasana insisted he had no obligation under the law to disclose a 1985 acquittal on a murder count and, as he had disclosed all else, argued the allegations were part of a smear campaign against him.
Nxasana was appointed as national director of public prosecutions in August last year. Before that the post had been filled for 19 months in an acting capacity by Nomgcobo Jiba, and before that by Bulelani Ngcuka, Vusi Pikoli and Menzi Simelane, none of whom served their full 10-year terms.
Amid long-standing strife at the NPA, new allegations of turf battles among top officials emerged over the weekend, with reports of pending criminal charges and complaints against senior managers, and at least one suspension.
Masutha, who on Monday met the NPA, said he had appealed to everyone to “desist” from making public allegations, as these did not help the situation.
The minister said he had been given assurances by senior management of mutual co-operation, and he was confident they would now “traverse forward”.
Masutha said he was concerned about the potential negative impact on public opinion of the prosecution services, but remained confident these would be solved. “The process has sufficient space to allow for all these matters, at an appropriate time, to be dealt with and resolved,” Masutha said. “There’s no need to panic.”
While legal and technical processes are under way regarding Nxasana, the removal of a prosecutions boss is not a case of a simple dismissal, requiring presidential intervention, an inquiry and parliamentary approval, all of which can take six weeks or more.
However, a national director can ask the president to be allowed to vacate the office because of ill-health or “for any other reason which the president deems sufficient”.