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Noko quits as North West prosecutions head after hearing she was to face an inquiry

North West director of public prosecutions Moipone Noko has tendered her resignation amid lingering fallout from discredited decisions she took on high-profile cases while holding the same post in KwaZulu-Natal.

Noko quit on Wednesday, a day after she was informed that she would be facing an inquiry, impeccable sources told the Mail & Guardian.

National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi has faced criticism for not acting against Noko, despite a panel headed by Advocate Rodney de Kock reportedly concluding in 2019 that she, and others, had manipulated charges while she served as director of prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal.

The president appoints directors of public prosecutions, but President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office on Thursday declined to comment publicly on the matter.

Noko’s resignation comes as the state is heading to trial with the corruption case against Durban businessman Toshan Panday, several members of his immediate family and former police top brass in the province over rigged logistics contracts worth R47-million in the run-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup — more than a decade after the fact.

Panday was first arrested in 2011 in a sting operation for attempting to bribe the head of the Hawks in the province, General Johan Booysen, with R1.42-million in cash, allegedly to get him to drop a fraud and corruption investigation.

In 2014, Noko dropped charges against Panday and two of his co-accused — Colonel Navin Madhoe and Captain Ashwin Narainpershad. Her decision was overturned in 2016 by then national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams.

Panday then took Abrahams’s decision on review, partly on the basis that he had acted beyond his powers and failed to consult adequately with Noko.

In September 2020, the Pietermaritzburg high court dismissed the application and disparaged Noko’s decision not to proceed with the charges, despite documentary evidence of illicit money flows and a 400-page forensics report.

Panday — a sometime business associate of Edward Zuma — was arrested shortly afterwards, together with Madhoe, Narainpershad and retired KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni.

Ngobeni is accused of pressuring Booysen to abandon the investigation into Panday, the captain and the colonel. She has been charged with defeating the ends of justice, as well as with corruption.

On 27 October, Noko sent a 57-page letter to National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) colleagues, saying she felt traumatised by unfair criticism of several of her decisions and felt the need to give her version of events.

In it, she repeated her accusations against Booysen on the Panday matter, insisting that he had sought to entrap Madhoe and press him and Panday to implicate Ngobeni.

“I cannot be reasonably expected to turn a blind eye to such unfairness,” she wrote.

She partly blamed her decision to charge Booysen and detectives of the Cato Manor and Port Chepstow organised crime units with 116 charges of racketeering, murder and robbery, on Abrahams and prosecutors assigned to the case. 

Booysen was investigating Panday when trumped-up charges against him and 26 other officers were instituted in 2012 in the so-called “Cato Manor death squad” case.

These were withdrawn only seven years later after a panel appointed by Batohi concluded in mid-2019 that Abrahams, former acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba, Noko and NPA deputy director Sello Maema lied and conspired to charge Booysen and his colleagues. 

The panel’s findings were leaked to the media, but never officially released by Batohi. The NPA has faced questions about why no steps were taken against Noko and Maema, who now serves as deputy director in the North West.

In December, Booysen filed a civil claim seeking damages of R7.65-million from the ministers of police and justice for, inter alia, deprivation of freedom, emotional abuse, past loss of earnings and legal costs as a result of his arrest and subsequent early retirement.

Noko said in her letter that she had been vilified for 10 years without the NPA coming to her defence, despite being furbished repeatedly with her reasons for her decisions and criticising Batohi.

“This vilification continues to this day, with the concomitant silence from my own employer despite that I have sent and sent my explanations,” she said.
Noko was moved to the North West in 2019, after a decade in KwaZulu-Natal.

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