Justice DG 'blatantly dishonest' with Ginwala inquiry
Justice and Constitutional Development Department director general Menzi Simelane had been “blatantly dishonest” with the Ginwala inquiry into suspended head prosecutor Vusi Pikoli’s fitness to hold office, a lawyer said on Monday.
Advocate Wim Trengove, representing Pikoli, made the statement on the first day of a second round of hearings before the commission of inquiry chaired by Frene Ginwala.
Trengove, who was tracing the lines of authority between the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Justice and Constitutional Development Department, said Simelane was given legal advice that he had no control over the duties of the NPA staff.
Trengove accused him of being “blatantly dishonest” about withholding this information from the hearing. He said Simelane should have disclosed the fact that he had been given opinion that supported Pikoli.
“I want to suggest to you your conduct in relation to these opinions had been blatantly dishonest, Mr Simelane,” said Trengove.
Simelane replied: “I didn’t think there was a need to disclose that I took legal advice to the commission.”
The only control Simelane had over the NPA was related to its finances, Trengove added.
He confronted Simelane for failing to tell the inquiry that he had sought and been given this legal opinion. Trengove said that when first asked about it, Simelane said he did not remember.
Trengove also questioned Simelane on what the Constitution and the NPA Act said about the NPA’s powers.
Trengove said the NPA Act described the structures of the prosecuting authority and stated that the director general of justice had no part in it.
“Doesn’t it make it absolutely clear who’s the boss in that department?,” asked Trengove.
Simelane said the department had never disputed that point. But Simelane disagreed that the Constitution guaranteed independence to the NPA.
Simelane argued that his role as an accounting officer was defined in the Public Finance Management Act.
Trengove disputed this.
Simelane explained that the NPA was a branch of the Justice and Constitutional Development Department, and this meant that he was accounting officer for the department. This was especially in respect of finances.
Simelane said the NPA was not an independent organisation but rather a stand-alone organisation.
Earlier, the commission heard that the demographics of a team of prosecutors sent on overseas trips were at the heart of a fall-out between Simelane and Pikoli.
“I held a different view [to Pikoli] about the size of delegations and the profile of the people to travel,” Simelane told the inquiry.
“The people didn’t represent the demographics of the country and the NPA,” he said.
Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla then asked Simelane to discuss the issue with Pikoli.
President Thabo Mbeki suspended Pikoli as National Prosecuting Authority head September last year, citing a breakdown in the relationship between Pikoli and Mabandla.
Pikoli’s lawyers have said that the real reason for the suspension was the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions’ investigation into police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, who is on special leave pending his corruption and defeating the ends of justice case.
The hearings will continue until July 4. - Sapa