Advocate labels former NPA boss 'slimy, slippery and dishonest'
Pro forma advocate Mike Hellens called former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Menzi Simelane “slimy” during cross-examination at the latter’s disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.
Hellens was asking Simelane about a letter Thabo Mbeki, as president in 2007, sent to then justice minister Brigitte Mabandla about then national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli’s case against former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.
At the time Simelane was, in turn, asked by Mabandla to draft a letter to Pikoli on her behalf asking him to stop the arrest of Selebi “until the minister has been appraised of all the evidence”.
Hellens accused Simelane of lying during the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry, a reference to a previous request by Pikoli’s lawyers to him for “copies of all communications and other documents relating to the investigation and prosecution of Mr Selebi, which you or your department may have sent to or received from the president or anyone in the presidency at any time since 15 September”.
Simelane responded in a letter to them at the time: “We are not in possession of any documents relating to the investigation of the national commissioner of police, save for reports prepared by your client [Pikoli].”
When asked about this at the Ginwala inquiry, he initially said: “I wasn’t informed about the letter, I became aware of the letter much later.”
But he said later: “I think I said I was aware that the minister had received a letter from the president, because she mentioned it. So I was aware of the letter but I hadn’t seen the letter.”
‘Duck the obligation’
Hellens asked Simelane on Wednesday if he was trying to “duck the obligation” to give the letter to the lawyers after they requested all correspondence.
Simelane said the minister told him the letter could not be released and that reports by Pikoli on Selebi would suffice. He said they expected the lawyers to come back to them to clarify what particular documents they wanted.
“You knew of the relevant letters, you were being too cute by half,” Hellens told Simelane.
“What does that mean?” Simelane asked.
“Too cute by half means you are being slimy, slippery and dishonest,” Hellens responded.
“Slimy? [That’s] rubbish,” Simelane said.
Hellens said Simelane’s claim that he did not see the president’s letter was “nonsense” as he had drafted a letter to Pikoli on behalf of the minister after she got the letter from the president.
Simelane said the minister told him what to write in the letter to Pikoli. Hellens asked why he would say contradictory things in the Ginwala inquiry.
“There must have been some sort of misunderstanding,” Simelane replied.
A disciplinary panel was appointed by the Johannesburg Bar to investigate charges of misconduct instituted against Simelane.
The Bar, in its amended charges, said Simelane failed to disclose correspondence at the Ginwala inquiry between Mbeki and Mabandla, and the minister and Pikoli, which provided evidence that the minister sought to interfere in the prosecutorial independence of the NPA.
It argued that the documents and facts were relevant to Pikoli’s suspension, which Simelane conceded under oath, but failed to include them in government’s submission to the inquiry.
In 2012, the Constitutional Court found that Simelane’s appointment by President Jacob Zuma as national director of public prosecutions was invalid. Simelane was appointed NPA boss in 2009.
The Constitutional Court found that Zuma had failed to consider evidence before him, including the findings of the Ginwala inquiry into the conduct of Pikoli and the findings of a public service commission report when appointing Simelane, rendering the president’s decision “irrational”.
Simelane, in his capacity as justice director general, was, according to the ruling, “intimately involved” in a dispute over the proper role of Pikoli and the powers and duties of the justice minister.
Mbeki suspended Pikoli in September 2007 after pursuing corruption charges against Selebi.
On October 3, Mbeki instituted a commission of inquiry, chaired by former speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala, into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office.
Online comments on stories relating to this hearing have been disabled, as per an order of the disciplinary inquiry in which media houses were granted access to the hearing.