/ 11 February 2004

Prosecuting authority ‘strengthened by Hefer’

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has emerged as a stronger organisation following the Hefer commission, National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka said on Wednesday.

”We faced one of the toughest public tests any organisation can face. This does not happen with many institutions, especially not with organs of state. However, there should not be any doubt in our minds that as an organisation we emerged a lot stronger after the Hefer commission.”

Ngcuka was speaking at the NPA’s national conference in Johannesburg. He said the commission had united the personnel of the NPA.

”We emerged stronger also because the people of South Africa witnessed first hand what the allegations were about. The result was that public confidence in the NPA and law enforcement in general increased.”

He warned that this confidence came at a price: ”The price is that our obligations towards the public we are serving have now increased. People are now going to expect more from … the NPA, which is a positive challenge for us.”

Ngcuka said the commission had also ”exposed and tested the vulnerability of the relationships between the law enforcement agencies.”

The NPA now had to find ways to rebuild those relationships. The organisation’s operations had also been tested in the process, he said.

This was an apparent reference to former transport minister Mac Maharaj allegation that someone in NPA’s investigating arm, the Scorpions, had leaked information to the media claiming his wife, Zarina, was being investigated for tax invasion.

Ngcuka said: ”Organisationally we need to re-examine our policies, procedures and processes. If we find any weaknesses, we need to tighten those up”.

Ngcuka said the organisation was still trying to come to terms with the impact of the commission.

”We should determine, without delay, the extent of whatever collateral damage the whole Hefer episode might have caused to the reputation and the capacity of the NPA to meet the demands of its mandate.”

Ngcuka said he chose to see the Hefer Commission as a positive opportunity to start afresh.

”I am not saying that Hefer was not a painful experience nor hat it did not do damage. It was painful and it has caused damage.”

Ngcuka said in the past the NPA had focused on technical competence.

”Our experience during the Hefer Commission and our initial assessment of the impact of the commission on our organisation, clearly shows that the time has come to shift gears.

In light of this ”we need an attitude change, a leadership change.”

By this Ngcuka did not mean he was resigning: ”I am not quitting. I am here to stay,” he told delegates.

He meant the NPA was to ”embark on a new and exciting leadership initiative called the ‘fearless executive’.”

This was a special programme drawn up for the NPA which would be introduced soon.

The Hefer commission was established to investigate allegations that Ngcuka may have been an apartheid spy. – Sapa