/ 9 December 2008

Pikoli axing: PSC to probe Simelane

Justice and Constitutional Development Department boss Menzi Simelane is to be investigated by the Public Service Commission (PSC) for his role in the suspension of former prosecutions chief Vusi Pikoli.

Justice Minister Enver Surty announced on Tuesday that he has referred the Ginwala report on Pikoli’s conduct to PSC chairperson Stan Sangweni for further investigation.

The Ginwala report is scathing about Simelane’s conduct as director general (DG) of the justice department, accusing him of misleading former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla and of interfering with the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority by drafting a letter for Mabandla which instructed Pikoli to cease his probe into police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

‘We are taking the allegations very seriously,” Surty said at a press briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday afternoon.

‘It is now a day after the Ginwala report was released and I have already referred it to the PSC for investigation.”

Simelane will, however, stay on as justice department DG pending the PSC’s investigation into his conduct.

According to Surty, it is the prerogative of the Cabinet and President Kgalema Motlanthe to suspend and dismiss directors general and that labour law wouldn’t have allowed him to suspend Simelane until the investigation had been finalised.

Ginwala slated Simelane for withholding information from her inquiry and for letting his personal view of Pikoli get in the way of the state’s allegations against Pikoli.

Motlanthe announced on Monday that Pikoli would be relieved of his duties and that he would recommend his axing to Parliament in 30 days.

‘He [Simelane] had a duty to place all relevant information before the inquiry. His testimony before the inquiry was also not particularly helpful to me; his evidence was contradictory and I found him to be arrogant and condescending in his attitude towards advocate Pikoli,” Ginwala found.

‘His personal view informed the complaints against advocate Pikoli that formed part of government’s submissions to the inquiry.”

Asked whether he trusts Simelane in light of Ginwala’s findings, Surty said his experience of the director general — since being appointed minister in September — had been positive.

‘I find him [Simelane] to be extremely hardworking, committed and passionate about carrying out his work in the best interest of the department.

”But that does not take away anything from the alleged transgressions. If he was wrong, the appropriate measures should be taken against him,” Surty said.

Surty said he had asked Sangweni to investigate ‘each and every finding covered by the report” and hopes to have an outcome by the end of January.

He would then present the PSC’s report to the Cabinet to make a final decision on Simelane’s future.

Simelane did not attend Tuesday’s press briefing.

On whether the director general would be asked to take leave, Surty said his department ”had a lot of work to do” but that if he was found to have impeded the administration of justice he would ”absolutely” ask
him to take leave.

He however added that if the Simelane requested leave, this would be granted.

On when this investigation would be completed, the minister said he hoped that this would be completed at the end of January or February next year, adding that he ”could not anticipate how long this would take”.