The best of South African literature
Mxolisi Nxasana has fallen out of favour with his bosses, the government, and faces the axe, writes Jovial Rantao.
The sense of déjà vu is so powerful and unavoidable. We have been here before, at the exact spot, where the national director of public prosecutions falls out of favour with his bosses, the government, and faces the axe.
It happened a few years ago with Vusi Pikoli, a former director-general in the Department of Justice and an astute lawyer with impeccable struggle credentials.
And now it’s Mxolisi Nxasana’s turn. And he’d better start looking for a new job. The national director of public prosecutions, who has been in the job since August last year, is all but finished.
Quite clearly, the relationship between him and his employer, the government, has broken down badly.
He was asked to resign, not once, but twice, giving a clear indication that he is not wanted. His failure, under dubious circumstances, to secure a security clearance is used as an excuse to get rid of him. But South Africans are clever enough to see way beyond this.
To his credit, Nxasana is – as is his right – fighting back, but there is no way he is going to hold on to his job as the most powerful law-enforcement boss in the country. He knows because he has spoken of cloak-and-dagger activities to undermine him and find dirt that could damage his reputation.
As things stand, President Jacob Zuma, the man who appointed him to replace Menzi Simelane, will be forced to act. The president will have to institute a commission of inquiry that will determine the fitness, or lack thereof, of Nxasana to stay in office. And, as we know, no politician would institute an inquiry if he or she did not know the outcome.
Nxasana will do well to seek the advice of Vusi Pikoli – that bright and brave man whose biggest mistake was to take on the then president of the country, Thabo Mbeki.
Mbeki suspended Pikoli and, in terms of the law, established a commission of inquiry, chaired by former National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala to probe his fitness to hold office.
Pikoli will dispense of unique and valuable counsel because he has been there before. He will, among others, advise Nxasana that he cannot, as an ordinary citizen, take on the president of a country and win.
The president is just too powerful and has access to information and resources to blow you to smithereens. So my advice to Nxasana, which is the same I offered to Pikoli in 2007, is that he should step down now and save himself any humiliation.
Pikoli had a great tenure as Bulelani Ngcuka’s replacement as national director of public prosecutions. He has gone down in history as the man who was bold and brave enough to charge Zuma and bring him to court. Not once, but twice.
Like Pikoli at that time, Nxasana has done nothing wrong. He must be hurting, but he should, at all costs, resist the natural reaction to fight back.
While it is understandable that Nxasana might want to take action to protect his integrity, the best thing would be for him to cut his losses, quit and return to his practice in Durban. If he doesn’t, a dirty war looms and it can only, in my view, end in tears for him.
Nxasana may very well depart from his post but the problems that have led to his short tenure will persist. Ngcuka and Pikoli, on separate occasions, pointed to the problem: political interference.
And already there is talk that Nxasana was being removed because he was planning to act against Richard Mdluli, the suspended head of SAPS Crime Intelligence.
Perhaps, in searching for a solution to this vexing problem, consideration must be given to suggestions that the office of the NDPP must be turned into a chapter nine institution, removing it from control of the government and placing it in the hands of Parliament, that important institution that acts on all our behalf.
* Jovial Rantao is the editor of the Sunday Independent
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.