NPA boss candidates grilled on high-profile cases
From Jackie Selebi to Edward Zuma's business partner, panelists zeroed in on candidates' questionable decisions
Is there a different type of justice for high-profile cases?
This was the question at the centre of the interviews for the position of National Director of Public Prosecutions by the eight-member panel interviewing shortlisted candidates on day two of the interviews on Thursday.
Candidates who are senior members of the National Prosecuting Authority had to defend action taken in cases they were in charge of, and were grilled over controversial decisions in cases that involved politicians and other high-profile people.
Director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal Moipone Noko came under scrutiny for her decision to withdraw charges in high-profile cases.
Earlier in the day, senior prosecutor in Pretoria, advocate Andrea Johnson, was questioned over her decision to only prosecute late former police commissioner Jackie Selebi while “murderers and drug lords got off scot-free”.
At the centre of Noko’s interview was a barrage of questions over her 2014 decision to charge now retired KZN judge president Chiman Patel with crimen injuria and then withdraw the case as it was about to go to trial.
“Yes, I made a decision and when the matter went to court it was withdrawn because there was reason to withdraw,” Noko told the panel.
But the panelists didn’t accept her explanation.
“The government out of that case paid in damages a sum of R900,000 ... and that arises from your actions, making charges in spurious matters ... because you charge a person and when the matter goes to court,” said panel member Mvusi Notyesi.
Noko said her decision had not been malicious, but one panelist said her decision was an embarrassment to Patel and caused him to resign as judge president.
When questioned about her decision to withdraw charges in the Amigos case that included fraud and racketeering charges against two senior ANC politicians in the province, Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu, Noko said she withdrew the cases based on the evidence before her.
“I withdrew the case because there was no proper legal basis to continue the case,” Noko said.
She said assertions that she was made director of public prosecutions in KZN to withdraw the case were wrong.
Noko also faced stiff questioning about her decision to withdraw charges against Thoshan Panday, the business partner of former president Jacob Zuma’s son Edward.
She denied any political influence.
Earlier, Johnson had to explain to the panel why only one person was charged and prosecuted in the Selebi case.
Chairperson of the interviewing panel, energy minister Jeff Radebe, asked her why, despite the fact that so many people were involved in the Selebi matter, only he was prosecuted and convicted.
Advocate Muvoso Notyetsi asked the same questions, saying Johnson was interested in prosecuting “the big fish” and allowed other accused to walk free.
Johnson denied this and said that then NDPP Menzi Simelane interfered unduly in the case.
She further said that former president Thabo Mbeki was involved in the matter, too.
Director of public prosecutions in the Western Cape Rodney de Kock, who is also up for the NDPP position, was asked about his role in the prosecution of Thandi Maqubela, who was accused of killing her husband.
Maqubela was convicted but later acquitted by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
De Kock told the panel that after getting advice he did not appeal the SCA acquittal.
He further said he was personally involved in many high-profile cases.
Besides questions on specific cases the candidates were involved in, the four advocates were asked about their diagnoses of the problems at the NPA.
Johnson said the problems were so deep that merely appointing a new NDPP would not fix them.
“The place as it is now will chew the pope up and spit him out alive ... that’s how bad the situtation is,” she said.
Johnson spoke about rampant factionalism in the NPA, and of political interference.
De Kock said he was not aware of the extent of the problems facing the NPA, while Noko said the NPA suffers from a lack of accountability, adding: “The NDPP that this panel is going to appoint must deal with this.”
On Friday, two of the 11 shortlisted candidates will be interviewed.
The panel is expected to deliberate following the interviews and make a recommendation for a new NDPP to President Cyril Ramaphosa by December 7.