The newly-appointed national director of public prosecutions, advocate Shamila Batohi, has not wasted any time overturning some of the controversial decisions made by her predecessor advocate Shaun Abrahams.
Just two months in office, Batohi this week decided to swop the roles of Hofmeyr and advocate Nomvula Mokhatla who had held the positions of head of legal affairs division and AFU head respectively during Abrahams’s tenure.
Hofmeyr, who had served as head of the AFU from 1999, was removed from his post in 2015 by Abrahams.
On Wednesday, Hofmeyr posted on his personal Facebook account: “It is really good to be back with the talented and dedicated team at the Asset Forfeiture Unit. Now to get some of our billions back.”
He is expected to prioritise asset forfeit matters that have been neglected by the unit.
While NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku remained mum on the shuffling of its senior management, other organisations saw Hofmeyr’s appointment as a step in the right direction.
Director of the Council for the advancement of the South African Constitution Lawson Naidoo welcomed the latest appointment, saying he hoped Hofmeyr would mentor the younger AFU members.
“Advocate Willie Hofmeyr has spent most of his career with the Asset Forfeiture Unit and brings vast knowledge and experience. He is in a great position to mentor younger members to grow the AFU from strength to strength.”
Corruption Watch director David Lewis described Hofmeyr as a man of integrity, adding that it was “fantastic news” that he was back at the helm.
“He brings a lot of experience and because of the recent failures of the AFU, such as in the Estina Dairy saga, a person like Willie Hofmeyr is needed at the unit,” Lewis said.
Wayne Duvenage of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse said Hofmeyr’s appointment made sense as he had the moral courage to ensure the power of the AFU was re-energised.
“This unit has the power to fight corruption. The unit is a fantastic tool of government that was stifled and put in the dark for too long. Willie is the right man for the job,” Duvenage said.
NPA sources confirmed on Thursday that Batohi returned Hofmeyr to his previous post to allow him to deal with the outstanding cases.
“It is the prerogative of the NDPP to assign her four deputy directors of public prosecutors to different positions. Advocate Shaun Abrahams did the same and so did Mxolisi Nxasana,” one of the sources said.
The AFU has been weakened in recent years culminating in last year’s decision by the Bloemfontein High Court, which ruled in favour of Gupta- aligned companies and individuals after they had challenged an AFU order that seized R250 million worth of assets.
In January, Hofmeyr made shocking revelations before the Mokgoro Inquiry tasked to probe the fitness of two NPA prosecutors, advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, to hold office.
He told the inquiry his role included attaching properties of senior ANC officials - who were facing criminal prosecutions - and big and powerful business people who built their business empires through rhino poaching.
Hofmeyr said in his new role, he was supposed to advise Abrahams on key legal issues facing the NPA but he was left to his own devices.
“I should mention that Abrahams removed my control and supervision as head of legal affairs division of a significant number of contentious cases dealing with allegations of unethical conduct by him, Jiba, Mrwebi and other senior NPA officials. Under all previous NDPP’s, the legal affairs division dealt with all the cases,” Hofmeyr said.
He said he believed the decision to snub him was because of his intolerance of protecting senior NPA officials against allegations of wrongdoing.