Nxasana drinks from poisoned chalice
Johannesburg - Bulelani Ngcuka lasted six years.
Vusi Pikoli had two years at the helm before he was hauled before an inquiry.
Menzi Simelane spent three years in office before President Jacob Zuma was forced to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling and remove him.
And Nomgcobo Jiba acted in the position for 11 months.
Mxolisi Nxasana has lasted ten months – and now he has to face a presidential inquiry where he will have to fight to keep his job as national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).
Zuma announced on Saturday that he will institute an inquiry into Nxasana. While the president has not revealed the inquiry’s terms of reference, it is common knowledge that it would centre on Nxasana’s fitness or otherwise to hold the post of NDPP.
The NDPP is appointed at the discretion of the president with the justice minister exercising “final responsibility” over the incumbent.
Opposition parties and lobby groups have long called for the powers on the appointment of the NDPP to be removed from the president and be given to Parliament. These groups believe that until that happens, there will continue to be a revolving door at the NPA.
The scenes that have played out in that office in the last 15 years attest to the same trend: how each of the heads have been sucked into political battles.
Nxasana, the sixth head of the NPA, is the latest victim of the poisoned chalice.
In May it emerged that Nxasana had been denied security clearance for not disclosing murder charges against him dating back to 1985, which he was later acquitted of. Former justice minister Jeff Radebe had asked him to resign over it but he refused.
Several other allegations arose as have the behind-the-scenes details of his attempts to charge former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and what he believes is a plot to unseat him.
He is not alone though.
Ngcuka, the first NDPP, was often accused of selective prosecution and avoiding then-president Thabo Mbeki’s allies. After he took on Zuma, deputy president at the time, for his involvement in the arms deal, allegations emerged that he was an apartheid spy. Although he was cleared by the Hefer Commission of Inquiry, he resigned in 2004.
Ngcuka’s successor Pikoli, who lasted two years, maintains he was suspended to protect then-national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who he was investigating.
His suspension happened days before he would apply for a warrant of arrest for Selebi.
After a protracted battle and a commission of inquiry into his fitness for office led by former speaker Frene Ginwala, which found that he should be reinstated, Pikoli walked away.
Next was Simelane, the Justice Department’s director-general, who Zuma appointed despite him being harshly criticised as dishonest in the Ginwala Inquiry into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office.
Zuma was forced to remove Simelane after the Constitutional Court effectively found his appointment was irrational and invalid.
Jiba, who acted following Simelane’s departure, had years earlier been suspended from a senior position, facing internal charges of unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, fraud and bringing the NPA into disrepute for her alleged involvement in the arrest of former Gauteng Scorpions boss Gerrie Nel to stop the arrest of Selebi.
When Nxasana came in as Jiba’s successor, she returned to her position as one of his deputies.
Nxasana and Jiba have, however, not seen eye to eye – especially over his handling of several cases, sources have told The Sunday Independent.
There was the matter with former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who has maintained that she was suspended to prevent her from pursuing charges against Mdluli.
An internal investigation had found Breytenbach flouted several internal codes and several acts and that criminal charges should be laid against her.
Nxasana, however, failed to institute the charges and Breytenbach reached an agreement when she resigned from the authority.
Then there was the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that they reconsider the charges that had been withdrawn against Mdluli.
Jiba, it is understood, wanted him to challenge the ruling in the Constitutional Court but Nxasana refused.
And he also withdrew an appeal lodged on Jiba’s behalf in the judgment on KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Major-General Johan Booysen, the head of the now-disbanded Cato Manor serious and violent crimes unit, who is facing racketeering charges.
The court found that Jiba had lied about considering four statements before deciding to prosecute Booysen, saying her impugned decision was arbitrary, unconstitutional and invalid.
Jiba had allegedly wanted to appeal the matter because her integrity was criticised, but when Nxasana found out about the appeal he withdrew it.
Although the controversies around Nxasana only emerged in May, he has been caught in a factional battle for the soul of the NPA since he stepped into office on September 1 last year.
Prior to Nxasana’s appointment, the authority had been without a permanent head for just under two years.
And the appointment had only taken place after the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution approached the Constitutional Court to compel Zuma to fulfil what they called his constitutional obligation.
The commission of inquiry into Nxasana’s fitness – like Pikoli’s – could take two years to finish.
What it inevitably means is that once again the country will for many months not have a permanent NDPP.
As Nxasana begins his walk out of the revolving door, with the status quo of who makes the appointment remaining the same, the question remains: Who’s next?