Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos described the appointment of Menzi Simelane’s as national director of public prosecutions as the darkest and most scandalous day yet in the short life of President Jacob Zuma’s tenure and showed an “utter disregard for the Constitution and the law”.
De Vos, who holds a chair in constitutional governance at the University of Cape Town, said the National Prosecuting Authority Act laid down that the director had to be a “fit and proper person, with due regard to his or her experience, conscientiousness and integrity”.
“President Zuma acted unlawfully because Simelane clearly does not meet the requirements for the job,” he said.
De Vos wrote two pieces in which he explains why Simelane is a liar and not a fit and proper person. Certainly the findings of the Ginwala inquiry alone should have placed him just behind Clive Derby Lewis on the list of possible candidates for the job he now holds.
The Sunday Times‘ Rob Rose in a compelling exclusive entitled “How arms-deal man escaped with R200m” sets out how Simelane tried to justify dropping the case against the man central to the decade-long arms deal scandal.
“Simelane claimed this week that he had abandoned an attempt to freeze flamboyant playboy Fana Hlongwane’s foreign bank accounts because of a lack of evidence against him.”
On March 5, Willie Hofmeyr’s Asset Forfeiture Unit was granted a “preservation order” by Judge Willem van der Merwe in the High Court in Pretoria, freezing £437 594 in the account of Hlongwane’s Gamari Trust in Lichtenstein’s Bank Pasche — money which had come from BAE’s agent, Arstow.
The case was meant to go back to court on April 6, but was mystifyingly “abandoned” this week, apparently on Simelane’s orders after he met with Hlongwane’s lawyers. On Friday, Simelane said the freezing order could not be continued “as there is no evidence of criminal conduct”.
But not only do senior prosecutors disagree with their boss on this case, his statement is also contradicted by the exhaustive documentation.”
Three possibilities exist :
- . 1 Simelane doesn’t understand the law sufficiently for a job in which legal knowledge is required — which results in disasters like the Ginwala inquiry where he was out of his depth — in which case he should be fired.
- . 2 Simelane understands his job only too well and that means seeing that the interests of an elite few are protected regardless of the interests of the country — in which case he should be fired.
- . 3 Simelane has no real function other than taking orders from above, carrying them out and taking the flack – in which case he should be fired before he becomes punch drunk.
What is clear is that the time for an independent arms deal inquiry has now arrived in earnest.
Instead of closing a door the head of the NPA has shown why this whole sorry mess now needs to be investigated once and for all. We have some of South Africa’s top prosecutors who have expended enormous time and money to nail an enemy of the State only to see someone from within simply drop the ball.
As part of the inquiry a separate probe now needs to be held on Simelane to see whether any man in his position possessed of his knowledge and faced with the evidence before him would have dropped the charges against Fana Hlongwane.
South Africa can no longer afford to keep writing off these sorry episodes which cost the country billions and billions while depriving us of vital resources essentiel for service delivery.