The failure of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) high court application to remove national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Menzi Simelane has cleared the way for Simelane to focus on his duties, the government said on Wednesday.
In welcoming the judgement, spokesperson Themba Maseko said: “The NDPP plays an important role in our fight against crime and this judgement allows advocate Simelane to continue on the immediate task at hand of fighting corruption and crime.”
He said the judgment reaffirmed President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Simelane as the NDPP.
The DA’s application to remove Simelane was dismissed by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.
“In the absence of any prescribed process, I am unable to hold that the process followed was irrational as the president’s [Jacob Zuma] aim was, as is apparent from his answering affidavit, to determine whether Mr Simelane was a fit and proper person for appointment as envisaged in the Constitution and the [National Prosecuting Authority] Act,” read Judge Pieter van der Byl’s ruling.
“I am accordingly unpersuaded that it has been shown on the probabilities that Mr Simelane is not a fit and proper person for appointment.”
The DA filed urgent papers last year opposing Zuma’s appointment of Simelane. The party said he was not the right person for the job and the process followed to appoint him was irrational.
It also argued that the appointment was made for an improper, ulterior motive, namely to appoint an NDPP who was thought to be malleable to the executive’s wishes.
DA chairperson James Selfe said the party would meet its legal team to examine the judgment and internally decide on whether it would appeal the ruling. It would decide on whether to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Zuma’s surprise appointment of the former justice director general in November 2009 was contentious, in the wake of damning findings in the Ginwala inquiry that Simelane asked senior members of the National Prosecuting Authority to spy on its boss, Vusi Pikoli.
Former National Assembly speaker and ANC stalwart Frene Ginwala, who headed up the Ginwala inquiry into Pikoli’s fitness for office, severely criticised Simelane in her final report, calling him arrogant and condescending towards Pikoli.
Ginwala labelled his evidence before the inquiry “contradictory and without basis in fact or in law” and blamed him for suppressing the disclosure of information. This specifically referred to a legal opinion advising Simelane that he did not have authority over the NPA, as he had claimed.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described the appointment as an “aberration”.
Simelane has challenged this criticism, arguing that it is driven by people who are hostile towards black economic empowerment.
He was also the subject of investigation by the South African General Council of the Bar. Senior advocate Pat Ellis of the Pretoria Bar submitted a formal complaint against Simelane to the General Council of the Bar (GCB) in December 2009 after the release of Ginwala’s report.