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Nxasana puts security in the spotlight

Advocate Willie Hofmeyr, head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, is the only prosecutions head who has a Top Security Clearance Certificate from South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). File picture: Phill Magakoe

Advocate Willie Hofmeyr, head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, is the only prosecutions head who has a Top Security Clearance Certificate from South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). File picture: Phill Magakoe

Published Jun 4, 2014


Johannesburg - Advocate Willie Hofmeyr, head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, is the only prosecutions head who has a Top Security Clearance Certificate from South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA).

All prosecutors employed by the NPA, including officials that handled sensitive information, were required to undergo intelligence vetting, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman, Nathi Ncube, said yesterday.

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The three other deputy directors of public prosecutions – Nomgcobo Jiba, Silas Ramaite and Nomvula Mokhatla – have not been cleared by the state’s intelligence agency.

Of those, only Mokhatla, head of the specialised protection service, has applied for a clearance certificate but her application is still being processed.

Ncube said Ramaite’s clearance certificate had expired in 2011 and he had not re-applied for fresh vetting.

Jiba, however, who acted as national head of public prosecutions for 10 months after Menzi Simelane was removed for not being fit and proper to hold the position, had never applied for security vetting, Ncube said.

Asked why Jiba had not put herself up to be vetted, Ncube said: “Advocate Jiba is appointed by the president so no one here can take action against her.”

Ncube said it was up to senior NPA officials to ensure all other prosecutors were vetted.

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“The vetting process is an application. Either you submit your form, which then must be processed, or you don’t submit. The person who is the custodian of that information is the CEO (advocate Karen van Rensburg). According to her records Jiba has not submitted, Maite expired in 2011 and has not applied (again), while advocate Mokhatla has applied and it is still pending,” he said.

Jiba’s non-compliance came to light after the uproar surrounding public prosecutions head, Mxolisi Nxasana, who was asked to resign after being denied a security clearance on the basis that he had failed to disclose a number of brushes with the law, including being acquitted of murder 30 years ago.

Nxasana, appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions by President Jacob Zuma in October, has come under pressure after revelations that he allegedly did not disclose that: As an 18-year-old he was tried and acquitted of murder; had been arrested for inconsiderate driving and resisting arrest; that he was fined by a law society; and tried to prevent an NPA unit from investigating him.

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However, he is refusing to resign and is preparing for Zuma to possibly set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations against him.

Jiba did not return several calls by the Daily News, including messages left on her voicemail and a text message.

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Ramaite refused to answer questions put to him by the Daily News.

“I cannot help you,” he said.

Mokhatla said she had applied twice to the SSA to be vetted, the first time in 2012 while she worked at the justice department, and in March this year after taking a position at the NPA.

“The first time I did not hear anything back from them. I applied again when I started working for the NPA; and I applied again. This was sometime in March and two weeks ago officials from the SSA got back to me and wanted further documentation which I submitted. I think it takes a while for them to finalise that process because they interview everybody you have mentioned in those (vetting) forms,” she said.

Paul Hoffman, director at the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said while security vetting was essential for senior posts in the NPA, it was sometimes overlooked for the politically connected.

“It is apparent to me that the reason why some of them are vetted and some are not, is because cadre deployment is the reason for the appointment rather than merit. The requirements for vetting are simply ignored and a loyal cadre is put in place to ensure those in high places involved in criminality escape the rule of law,” he said.

“The difficulty is when people are deployed to what is meant to be an independent authority for the simple reason to ensure it is not run independently. Then we have a situation where the rule of law and the constitution are undermined.”

Hoffman said Nxasana’s brushes with the law and his failure to disclose them before he was appointed had made him an easy target for his detractors.

“If our current NPA disclosed all his baggage and was given the position anyway, he has good ground to gripe. But if he chose to keep quiet about them, then there are serious questions to answer. Among those questions is the inconsiderate driving charge that has been swept under some magic carpet which he did not disclose,” he said.

“All these things hint that he did not have the level of probity that one would expect of a person who would hold the position of national director of public prosecutions.”

Hoffman said that if there was anything the government should learn from this is to ensure that people who have been earmarked for senior positions are vetted before being appointed.

“If that is not dealt with upfront you’re laying yourself open for exactly what is happening now.”

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