National

NPA head and President Jacob Zuma caught in minefield

Glynnis Underhill

Mxolisi Nxasana's latest move was to file an urgent court interdict, which he later withdrew, to get Zuma to explain why he wants to suspend him.

NPA chief Mxolisi Nxasana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana filed an urgent court interdict on Tuesday to try to compel President Jacob Zuma to provide him with information on why he wants to suspend him.

This was confirmed by Nathi Mncube, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), who said the court papers were filed in the Pretoria high court, but later withdrawn by Nxasana.

“I can confirm that indeed the papers were filed to try to compel President Jacob Zuma to respond to a request from the national director of public prosecutions for information on why he wants to suspend him,” said Mncube. “The court papers were later withdrawn.”

Zuma announced in July that he intends to hold a commission of inquiry into Nxasana’s fitness to hold office. 

This is the only way Zuma can try to fire him, as the position is a presidential appointment. 

President’s choice
The post of head of the National Prosecuting Authority is not advertised and the president has to apply his mind about who he selects. Zuma chose Nxasana for office, even though he had not applied for the job.

It is believed there are negotiations ongoing behind the scenes between Nxasana and Zuma, who are trying to come to an agreement over the stand-off. But Mncube said he could not discuss the matter.

Nxasana’s backers believe that previous attempts by former justice minister Jeff Radebe to persuade him to step down were related to moves by the prosecuting body to recharge suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli with fraud and corruption.

“He has proved to be independent and will not bow to political influence, which is why they want to get rid of him,” said an NPA legal figure.

The Mail & Guardian understands that Nxasana sent correspondence to Zuma after the president sent him a letter on July 30 asking him to provide reasons why he should not be suspended.

But Zuma failed to respond to his correspondence, the M&G was told.

Delayed response
Nxasana was required to respond to Zuma within days after being served with the notice of the president’s intention to suspend him. But he asked for an extension as his brother-in-law had died and it had fallen on him to take care of the funeral arrangements. 

The national director of public prosecutions was then given until Tuesday this week to respond to Zuma and furnish reasons why he should not be suspended.

It was widely expected that Zuma would suspend Nxasana once he had responded and Nxasana opted to proceed to court.

In a startling move, Radebe informed Nxasana at the end of May that he had failed his security clearance on two main counts. 

The first was for a murder charge he faced in court when he was 18, which he said he had not declared because he was acquitted on the grounds that he had acted in self-defence.

The second claim against him was his arrest by two police reservists, who he claimed pulled him off the road and swore at him. Nxasana told the M&G the court had refused to place it on the roll because there was no docket.

At the time, Nxasana told the M&G he was on record as having laid charges of abuse against the police reservists.

Details
Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, put out a statement last week saying that the details of the inquiry into his fitness to hold office were “being finalised”. 

Nxasana would be informed of the terms of reference in due course, said Maharaj.

It still remains to be seen who will win in this mighty battle of wills that those in the National Prosecuting Authority say has divided them into “camps” – those who back Zuma and those who back Nxasana.

After Zuma went public to declare Nxasana was the right man for the job last year, the situation has now developed into a minefield.


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