Nearly two months after the presidency announced a commission of inquiry into Mxolisi Nxasana, the NPA boss's fate is still uncertain.
South Africa’s National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana is still waiting for word on when he will attend a second meeting with President Jacob Zuma, who wants to suspend him from office.
Two weeks ago, Nxasana headed to court to prevent his suspension by Zuma, saying he did not believe there were “sufficient grounds to suspend him”. Zuma told Parliament last Thursday that there would be another meeting between the two to discuss the matter, but Nxasana is still waiting for word from the presidency on when that meeting will be held, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Nathi Mncube told the Mail &Guardian on Wednesday.
Zuma is currently on a lengthy visit to Russia, and while he appears to have left behind his usual trade advisers, he has also left Nxasana hanging without any answer on when they will meet. Moscow has confirmed that Zuma will have talks on Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In July the president announced his intention to hold a commission of inquiry to determine whether Nxasana is fit and proper for the job, but its terms of reference have still to be released.
Nxasana was formerly a KwaZulu-Natal attorney, who Zuma said he had appointed to the top post because he had a wealth of experience in criminal litigation and had previously held senior positions in the legal profession, including as chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society. However, heading up the NPA was clearly not the dream job Nxasana thought it would be when he took office in October.
While Nxasana has been described by some of his senior prosecutors as a man who will not bend to political influence, he is believed to have come under fire after the NPA re-charged suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli on corruption charges this year.
‘Unstable and ungovernable’
Email correspondence from as early as April revealed that Nxasana was convinced the work of the NPA was being deliberately undermined to make it both “unstable and ungovernable”.
Documents shown to the M&G indicate Nxasana felt there were rumour-mongering and smear campaigns at the prosecuting authority that were specifically intended to drive a wedge between staff and to destabilise the NPA.
In an email written to his special director of public prosecutions Advocate Lawrence Mrwebi, when he was just seven months into his job as prosecutions boss, Nxasana described how attempts were being made to destabilise the NPA.
Mrwebi had previously fallen under the spotlight after he was criticised by Pretoria high court judge John Murphy in September last year for dropping corruption and fraud charges against Mdluli, a move which the judge found to have been illegal and irrational.
Nxasana was responding to an email sent to him by Mrwebi, who claimed investigations were being conducted against him (Mrwebi) in KwaZulu-Natal by the Hawks in connection with an NPA tender fraud case. These investigations had apparently been instigated by the NPA head office, said Mrwebi in his email.
“The investigations, as advised, related to my role in the release from custody, and the payment of bail, as well as the issue of passport of Mr [Terrence] Joubert,” wrote Mrwebi.
Nxasana responded by email, saying said he doubted that the request for the investigation had come from the NPA head office. “However, having made that observation, I do not want to dismiss the allegations as baseless, because I am aware of all the consorted attempts, shenanigans, rumour-mongering and smear campaigns that go around at the NPA; some of which are intended to drive a wedge between certain people and make the NPA unstable and ungovernable,” Nxasana wrote.
Tender fraud investigation
In another email sent to Nxasana, Mrwebi described how the current NPA spokesperson, Mncube, was previously the prosecutor in the NPA tender fraud case and had laid charges against him for allegedly meddling in a tender fraud investigation against his colleague, Joubert. At the time of his arrest, Joubert was the head of the NPA’s security and risk management in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mrwebi has denied any wrong-doing on his part, and claimed in a statement that he gave to the Silverton police in Pretoria that he had assisted the police in the arrest of Joubert.
He stated that he had never stepped out of line, but accused Mncube of abusing his powers when he laid a charge against him. Despite Mncube declining to comment to the M&G on this case, Mrwebi concluded in his police statement: “Perhaps with my years of experience, I must be the dumbest prosecutor ever, to have such stupidity and misplaced courage and arrogance to overtly instruct police, who I do not even know, not to do what they are supposed to do, and later request the police at the highest level to monitor the very same case that that is related to my alleged actions.” The NPA notified Mrwebi in July that it was instituting prosecution against him in this case.
The M&G has seen a letter sent by Willie Hofmeyr, one of the deputy national directors of public prosecutions, written to Mrwebi, confirming the NPA intended prosecuting him in the Joubert matter. “Due process will now follow, and you will be informed in due course of the proceedings,” Hofmeyr wrote.
In the meantime, Mrwebi remains in his position as his was a presidential appointment that can only be suspended by Zuma, just as in the case of Nxasana. For both Nxasana and Mrwebi, there is little choice but to wait and see what happens next.