Durban - Advocate Moipone Noko, the Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, has left the province after a decade long stint.
She has now taken up the same post in the North West province.
Bulelwa Makeke, the National Prosecuting Authority’s head of communications, confirmed Noko’s move. She added that Advocate Elaine Zungu has been appointed as acting DPP in KZN.
Noko said: “I have been trying to leave KZN for the past three years so that I could be nearer to my ageing parents who have serious health challenges and living in Pretoria.”
She said her time in KZN was “educational” and generally good.
However, she described the bad times as “toxic”.
Noko kept a low public profile but some of her decisions were viewed as controversial. At one stage she was assigned bodyguards to watch over her.
Noko was accused of succumbing to “political interference” when she dropped charges against the accused in the R144 million “Amigos” corruption and racketeering matter in 2012.
The accused included billionaire businessman, Gaston Savoi, and former KZN MECs, Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni.
City Press ran an article in 2014 with allegations that Noko had dumped cases files related to a multi-million-rand tax fraud matter, involving Durban businesswoman Shawn Mpisane.
At the time, the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) said they had received no formal complaint and, as a result, could not investigate the allegations.
She was blamed for Judge Chiman Patel prematurely resigning from his position as KZN’s Judge President in 2014 after Noko sanctioned crimen injuria charges against him. These were brought by a junior staff member.
The charges against Patel were subsequently withdrawn.
He then brought a civil claim against the State. Judge Aubrey Ledwaba, who handled the matter, awarded Patel R900 000 in damages and said Noko’s decision to prosecute was ill-considered.
On hearing of Noko’s departure, Patel said: “The matter is not something I'd easily forget but time heals. I would have liked to have retired when my time was up and not prematurely. I will leave justice to be delivered by the divine, it’s not for me to decide,” said judge Patel.
Former KZN Hawks boss, Johan Booysens had a few run-ins with Noko over the years. Booysens testified at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry recently where he told Judge Raymond Zondo that it was “unlawful” for Noko to have dropped charges in the Amigos matter.
“The charges in that matter was dropped two weeks after Noko was appointed NDPP, and two and a half months later, she dropped charges in the Thoshan Panday and Navin Madhoe matter,” said Booysens.
Businessman Panday and Colonel Madhoe were charged with corruption for allegedly attempting to bribe Booysen in 2011 with R2m. This was at a time when Booysen and his team were investigating a matter involving World Cup accommodation tenders worth R60m.
He also told the commission that Noko lied when she was interviewed on national TV for the position of NPA head. This position was eventually awarded to Shamila Bathohi.
“She told the panel that she had nothing to do with the Booysen and Cato Manor matter, and found it on the court roll when she took up the position,” Booysen claimed.
The matter related to racketeering charges and the killing of 45 people allegedly by police from the Organised Crime Unit based at Cato Manor.
“That was an absolute lie. Noko signed and recommended our prosecution. I was later told how, when Shaun Abrahams became the NPA boss, she and another NPA official lied in a prosecution memorandum and a power-point presentation to re-prosecute me and the Cato Manor guys.”
Booysen said he has since pressed criminal charges with the Hawks to investigate.
“The province and the NPA is better off without her. She is dishonest. I have also made this claim in court papers,” he said.
Noko described Booysen as “just another detractor” and it was not the first time she had heard his allegations. She insisted that his was not a matter she started.
“How did I conspire to prosecute someone when I was not there when it started.
“It is annoying to see your name tarnished, but when I took an oath of office, I committed to prosecuting without fear, favour or prejudice and I am not moved by the allegations.”
Noko said that was not the only matter in which she was she was “crucified”.
“When charges were withdrawn in some matters after prosecutors explained their decision to withdraw in memorandums, I was blamed.
“Nobody was prepared to listen and accused me of having an agenda.”
She explained that withdrawals were part of the prosecution process, provided there were proper reasons.
“Judges and magistrates make decisions but they are never crucified. It was a toxic environment. I didn’t enjoy that part of my time in KZN,” she said.
Noko said she believed her success in the province was her ability to set up structures and committees to improve service delivery and she was proud of that.
“I got a lot of positive feedback, especially from members of the public. It takes a brave person to work in this field. Fortunately, I'm brave. But that is why I was persecuted.”