NPA women win battle to clear names

Published Jan 19, 2007


Three of the National Prosecuting Authority's most powerful women were forced to wage an almost four-year-long battle to clear their names - because of anonymous letters.

NPA chief executive officer Marion Sparg, her deputy Beryl Simelane and head of the NPA's integrity unit Dipuo Mvelase were labelled as corruption suspects, said to be under investigation and accused of wrongdoing.

Now, after the three were cleared of all charges of misconduct against them, it has emerged that the source of their ordeal was "letters from faceless people".

Speaking to The Star on Thursday, Simelane expressed disappointment at the prosecuting body's handling of the case against her and her colleagues.

Despite the fact that the three were never charged with corruption, they were incorrectly accused in media reports of tender-rigging and graft.

"It was very painful that the NPA did not come out with the charges against us ... to show that we were not charged with corruption.

"We were facing charges related largely to administrative issues," said Simelane, adding that one of the two charges against her related to her decision to change a member of an interview panel.

The allegations against the women seem to have emanated from a series of anonymous letters sent to the Public Service Commission, which - after probing the claims - cleared them of corruption.

In April last year, Sparg, Simelane and Mvelase were served with charges of misconduct which, according to their attorneys, "all related to human resource administration issues, except for one".

According to attorney Shamima Gaibie, the state's legal team tried unsuccessfully to conclude a deal with the women on Wednesday - in which the three would admit to certain of the charges in exchange for a written warning - before conceding that the state could not proceed with the case.

"They tried to offer us a deal," said Simelane, "But we said 'no way'. When they withdrew the charges, we were all so shocked.

"I'm very glad we went through the process, even though there were times when I'm sure we all felt like resigning."

Sparg, a former MK activist, said she felt "drained and exhausted" by the process of clearing her name.

"We have always maintained our innocence and received a lot of support from our friends and colleagues ... but it has been very tiring," said Sparg, who took two months' special leave after the strain of the disciplinary process became too much.

Mvelase - who is also deputy chairperson of the South African Communist Party - said the drawn-out disciplinary process sometimes led her to consider resigning from the unit, which she had largely been responsible for building up.

"But that would not have been fair to me. My integrity is too important to me to consider walking away with all these questions hanging over my head. I think that at some point too I just felt too angry to let it go," Mvelase said.

NPA spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi said the prosecuting body was very pleased that charges against the three had been withdrawn.

"Hopefully, whatever cloud was hanging over them has now been removed and we look forward to having them back at the NPA and working with them in the future."

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