Ramaphosa dumped Zuma-appointed top prosecutors to ’protect’ NPA
Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to revoke the appointment of two senior prosecutors by his predecessor Jacob Zuma cannot be overturned as they would not have helped restructure and revitalise the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), a court found this week.
Ron Mncwabe and Raymond Mathenjwa’s challenge to Ramaphosa’s decision to revoke their appointment by Zuma was dismissed with costs this week by North Gauteng High Court Judge Dawie Fourie.
Mncwabe and Mathenjwa were named directors of public prosecutions (DPP) for the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, respectively, but their appointments were later revoked when Ramaphosa came to power in February 2018.
On Monday, Judge Fourie accepted Ramaphosa’s explanation for revoking Mncwabe and Mathenjwa’s appointments.
”I was not satisfied that the persons purportedly appointed by the former president (Zuma), on the recommendation of (former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) advocate (Shaun) Abrahams, would necessarily best serve the interests of a highly effective NDPP or be in the best interests of the restructuring and revitalisation of the NDPP, as a vital organ in the justice system,” Ramaphosa said in his explanation for his revoking Mncwabe and Mathenjwa’s appointments.
Ramaphosa continued: “I determined that the appointment of suitable persons to those positions should rather be considered afresh by the new NDPP, advocate Shamila Batohi, who could then make recommendations in due course to me as president for appointment. That process awaits the outcome of the present litigation.”
Judge Fourie declared Ramaphosa’s reversal of Zuma’s decision rational and having been exercised for the legitimate purpose of ensuring the NPA’s constitutionally protected functioning and integrity.
In February 2018, a few days before he was recalled by the ANC, Zuma appointed Mncwabe, Mathenjwa, Malini Govender as Free State DPP, Dr Jacobus Pretorius and Bonnie Currie-Gamwo as special DPPs for the priority crimes litigation unit and the sexual offences and community affairs unit, respectively.
Pretorius initially challenged Ramaphosa’s revocation, but later withdrew while Govender and Currie-Gamwo did not.
Mncwabe and Mathenjwa lodged separate applications but it was later decided that they would be heard together by the same court.
According to Mncwabe, in July 2017, Abrahams’ personal assistant requested a copy of his CV apparently at Zuma’s request or instruction.
However, he would have to wait for another eight months before he was informed that he had been appointed Northern Cape DPP in February 2018.
Mncwabe told the court that due to the political climate that existed at the time and Zuma’s resignation, Abrahams informed him that Ramaphosa would announce his appointment.
He was only informed about Ramaphosa’s revocation of his appointment in March 2019, a decision he feels violated his constitutional rights, was irrational, against administrative law and which he wanted reviewed and set aside.
Mathenjwa, who was part of the team advising Abrahams whether or not fraud, corruption and money laundering charges against Zuma should be withdrawn, was also asked for a CV in June 2017 and told by the former NDPP in February 2018 that he had been promoted to the office of Mpumalanga DPP.
”Due to the change in administration, I did not insist on the immediate implementation of my appointment as I believed it prudent and collegial to allow the new president to settle into office before implementing my position as DPP Mpumalanga,” he explained in court.
Batohi informed Mathenjwa in March 2019 that he had not been appointed and then Justice Minister Michael Masutha also told him that Ramaphosa had revoked his appointment.
Judge Fourie said Ramaphosa appeared to have concerns that the proposed appointments of the DPPs and special DPPs was hastily made and also took into account the August 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that found Abrahams’ appointment as NDPP unlawful and that he vacates office.
”It, therefore, appears that President Ramaphosa properly applied his mind to these proposed appointments and considered the finalisation thereof carefully,” the judge found.
Mathenjwa did not respond to requests for comment while Mncwabe, now a magistrate, could not be reached on Wednesday.