Strip-club boss Andrew Phillips might have dealt a devastating first blow to Willie Hofmeyr’s bid to come the country’s next public protector.
Seen as a strong contender for the post, Hofmeyr is not “fit and proper” for the job, was “high-handed” while in charge of the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and is “disrespectful of the Constitution”, Phillips said.
These possibly damaging claims form part of a seven-page objection Phillips has submitted to the parliamentary ad hoc committee managing the process to appoint Thuli Madonsela’s successor.
Some may view this as part of a personal crusade by Phillips, one-time owner of The Ranch and Titty Twister clubs, but there are concerns that others may try to use it to influence the final names to be submitted to President Jacob Zuma.
The timing of Phillips’s missive has been questioned in view of how politicised the appointment has become, especially after recent court judgments, such as in the Nkandla case.
Asked whether he was doing this at the behest of politicians, Phillips said: “I do nobody’s bidding. My protest is one of principle. He should not be the next public protector.”
Parliament’s ad hoc committee will, on August 11, start televised interviews with the 14 contenders, among them the Western Cape High Court’s Judge Siraj Desai and the deputy public protector, Kevin Malunga.
The Mail & Guardian has established that about 100 objections were filed in respect of the full initial list of nominees and only those applicable to the remaining 14 were shared with committee members.
Sacked as the head of the highly successful AFU last year after a regime change at the NPA, Hofmeyr enjoys political backing in some circles but for now his fate at the NPA remains undecided.
The M&G has established that State Security Minister David Mahlobo has had at least one meeting with Hofmeyr to try to facilitate an elegant exit for him from the embattled institution.
The NPA had not responded to requests for comment by the time of going to print and Mahlobo’s office said the minister does not comment on matters dealt with “in the course of his duties”.
Hofmeyr has locked horns with politicians as well as his boss at the NPA over, among other things, his backing of ousted NPA head Mxolisi Nxasana. He submitted a damaging affidavit in the ongoing case against an NPA colleague, Nomgcoba Jiba, earlier this year in which he accused his boss, Shaun Abrahams, of lying under oath and irregularly protecting Jiba.
Hofmeyr said Jiba was a central figure in the removal of Nxasana.
Phillips wants nearly R900-million from the state following an unsuccessful prosecution and the seizure of his assets as the alleged proceeds of crime. He says the state has allowed his properties, including the two clubs, to fall into a shocking state of disrepair.
“In the raid, they removed the property from my possession. Hofmeyr was very intent on getting the media good footage. News of the raid was on all big news platforms. Hofmeyr has a fetish, an obsession with the media. He posed in front of one of my expensive cars just to show off AFU. They took my vehicles, carpets, paintings. What remained was plundered by the guardians.
“I would have an intrinsic problem if I ask the PP [public protector] to take action against the relevant people and Hofmeyr has assumed the throne.”
Hofmeyr declined to comment and referred all questions to the NPA.
Lawson Naidoo, from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, asked about the objection to Hofmeyr’s nomination, said: “It is the public’s right to communicate with the ad hoc committee about the public protector candidates, and they should do so.”
On being shown a copy of the objection, he said: “These are serious allegations. I would suggest that the untested allegations be put to Willie now, not simply at the interview.
“The allegations are detailed and he must prepare a proper response.
He has got some answering to do.
“However, one question raised in my mind is why this issue is only raised now when he has been shortlisted.
“It seems to me there might be an alternative agenda.”
No court in South Africa has made any “adverse findings against Willie Hofmeyr” as a result of his conduct in the Andrew Phillips case.
The NPA confirmed that it was involved in ongoing litigation with Phillips, former owner of strip clubs, The Ranch and the Titty Twister.
The strip-club boss has now filed a lengthy objection to Hofmeyr’s nomination for the post of Public Protector. This is likely to come up when members of the parliament’s ad hoc committee conducts interviews with 14 candidates early next month.
The NPA furthermore said: “Ordinarily, in the prosecution of charges wherein there are reasonable grounds that the accused had acquired assets from the proceeds of crime it is competent to secure an order to restrain such assets for the duration of the criminal proceedings. In this regard the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) instituted civil forfeiture proceedings in terms of section 26 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) in the form of a restraint application, having largely placed reliance on the strength of the prosecution which was ongoing against Mr Phillips at the time. This application resulted in Mr Phillips’ properties being restrained and a curator appointed by the court to administer the properties.”
Phillips later succeeded in his application for a permanent stay of prosecution. As a result of his victory in the Supreme Court of Appeal in September 2012, the NPA launched proceedings to rescind that order. A counter application by Phillips in that regard is currently pending, the NPa said.