DA leader Helen Zille, whose party took the government to court over the appointment of Menzi Simelane as the prosecutions boss has welcomed the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling as a “victory for our constitutional democracy”.
During a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, Zille said Simelane’s appointment in November 2009 had been designed to “shield the president and his network from being held accountable in law”.
Asked what she meant by “network”, Zille said the ANC was made up of competing factions – or networks – that were selectively leaking “things they know about each other” in attempts to gain or retain control of the party.
The appointment of Simelane – and that of presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj – she argued, was part of Zuma’s plan to avoid ever again facing the corruption charges that were levelled against him in 2007, but dropped by former acting prosecutions boss Mokotedi Mpshe on the eve of the 2009 elections.
Zille cited the ANC’s shutting down of the Scorpions anti-corruption unit as an example of similar “moves” and claimed that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had done a “neat finesse” to load the Judicial Service Commission with people sympathetic to Zuma.
This had culminated in the appointment of Zuma’s preferred candidate, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, to the highest judicial job in the country.
She said the purpose of these steps was to “put a Zuma acolyte into every key institution”.
Former National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala found during her inquiry into then national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli’s fitness for office that Simelane had been “misleading and untruthful” in the evidence he gave on behalf of the government. This formed the basis of the DA’s case against Zuma and his government.
Ginwala said on Thursday she was happy that her findings – largely ignored by the government of then president Thabo Mbeki and again by Zuma when he appointed Simelane – had finally been “taken seriously”.
Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political scientist at the Mapungubwe Institute, said the current ANC leadership, whom he described as “prejudiced and hostile towards the judiciary”, had been conceived in a climate of “disdain for the courts” and that it was “not entirely surprising that this presidency would have these kinds of fights with the judiciary”.
Political analyst Prince Mashele said Thursday’s judgment would project Zuma as “a president who takes problematic decisions”.
He said tension between the executive and the judiciary was likely to mount and the ANC’s attitude towards the courts would “harden”.
Mashele advised that Simelane, for his own sake, should resign.
“He should bow out… if it gets to the point where the Constitutional Court makes a pronouncement and finds (against his appointment) he’ll have that hanging over his head for life.”
Paul Hoffman SC, director at the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said Simelane should be “removed from his post” whether or not the government chose to appeal to the Constitutional Court. Political Bureau