Zuma names new NDPP amid dismay


President Jacob Zuma has appointed the Deputy National Director for Public Prosecutions, Advocate Menzi Simelane as the National Director for Public Prosecutions with effect from December 1 in a move that has been met with dismay.



Simelane will take over from Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Mokotedi Mpshe, who will return to his position of Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions.


Zuma’s office says the appointment was made in terms of Section 10 of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act of 1998.

The president thanked Mpshe “for his leadership of the NPA during a challenging time of transition in the leadership of the institution.” Mpshe replaced Vusi Pikoli after the latter was suspended by former President Thabo Mbeki in September 2007 after he expressed the wish to arrest then national police commissioner Jackie Selebi on corruption charges. Selebi is currently on trial.


Simelane was previously director general of Justice and Constitutional Development. “Adv. Simelane’s experience as the administrative head of the Justice and Constitutional Affairs department and in the legal fraternity provides him with the necessary skills and capacity to perform his functions efficiently and effectively”, avered Zuma.
“The NPA is a critical arm of the criminal justice system and a key instrument in the broader fight against crime and the implementation of justice. Its independence and vigour in the pursuit of justice must at all times remain unquestionable. We have confidence that … Simelane will make this his utmost priority,” said the president.



Ginwala commission


The Star newspaper reported that NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga welcomed the appointment while seeking to dispel what he claimed were negative "perceptions" about the NPA staff’s almost universal disdain for Simelane, who until recently was under investigation by the Public Service Commission for his "highly irregular" conduct in an inquiry into Pikoli’s fitness to hold office.

While acknowledging that Simelane had been vocal in his criticism of the NPA to the inquiry, Mhaga insisted that this animosity was water under the bridge.


Mhaga’s comments are in stark contrast to those made by the NPA staff, the paper said.

All expressed shock at Simelane’s appointment, which they say they saw as the beginning of the demise of any prosecutorial independence that had existed in the NPA. "(Simelane) is a government yes-man," one senior prosecutor said.


The inquiry on Pikoli’s fitness to hold office was headed by former Speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala. Her final report noted Simelane’s conduct in the matter, including his behaviour before her commission was “highly irregular” and “left much to be desired”.

Ginwala said Simelane misrepresented facts and failed to provide impartial and relevant advice to the inquiry. She also accused him of withholding documents under his care which were relevant to the inquiry. 


Ginwala also noted that he gave "inaccurate" and "contradictory evidence" that was sometimes "without basis in fact of law".

She also found that it was "probable" any differences between Pikoli and then-justice minister Brigitte Mabandla over the former’s role had been "precipitated by the director-general of justice’s misconception of his authority over the NPA".

He "did not heed the legal advice he had sought and received, and continued to assert powers he did not have". He then "attempted to suppress the disclosure of the information" relating to his then position as DG and its relationship with the NPA. Ginwala found this behaviour was "irregular".

After the Ginwala commission report was released, then president Kgalema Motlanthe noted the findings on Simelane, saying: “Once the honesty of (a) DG is called into question”, it needed to be investigated.


At the time, then-justice minister Enver Surty had promised to investigate, but yesterday’s statement from the Presidency announcing Simelane’s appointment said Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had decided not to proceed with disciplinary hearings against Simelane after “interacting” with the Public Service Commission.

Business Day reported Simelane also drafted a letter that contained an unconstitutional instruction to Pikoli not to arrest Selebi. Pikoli disobeyed the instruction, precipitating the crisis that led to his suspension.



Arms deal concerns

The Star added that the Democratic Alliance last year took Simelane to task over his department’s refusal to release documents pertaining to a request by German prosecutors for assistance in their investigations into allegations of corruption surrounding the 1999 Strategic Defence Package.


“Arms deal” gadfly Richard Young avers Simelane also allegedly interfered in a British investigation, going as far as “to fly to the UK to try to persuade the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) to abandon its investigation.”

The paper also says Simelane was “vocal in his calls for the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) to be disbanded”. This unit of the NPA had been tasked with probing the “arms deal”.

Opposition parties have expressed outrage at the appointment. The Democratic Alliance said it was “difficult to imagine a more inappropriate choice”.

The Independent Democrats said the appointment showed Zuma’s “disregard” for the independence of the authority.

Senior political analyst at the Centre for Policy Studies Aubrey Matshiqi said Simelane’s appointment was perplexing.

The “inauspicious circumstances” under which Zuma became president [he had been on trial for arms deal-related corruption] should have led him to send a strong message about the rule of law and independence of institutions, he said.
“This appointment defied that expectation and may send the opposite message that politics must triumph over the independence of our institutions.”



Potted CV

Born in 1970, Simelane completed the B Proc degree in 1993 and the LLB in 1995. He was admitted as an Advocate of the High Court in 1996 and commenced pupillage at the Durban Bar. On successful completion thereof, he joined the Johannesburg Bar in 1997.

In 1999 he was appointed as the Commissioner for the Competition Commission. As the head of this government institution for five years he was involved in making decisions on mergers and acquisition and anti-competitive practices and their impact on the economy and the economic transformation agenda of government.

In June 2005, he was appointed DG of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. In October 2009 he was appointed as the Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions at the NPA by then-President Kgalema Motlanthe.