10 April 2012

South Africa: President Zuma Must Answer Questions On Erasing NPA Boss's Husband's Criminal Record

Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma

press release

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has learnt with concern that the husband of Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Nomgcobo Jiba had his criminal record for stealing a client's money from his trust fund erased by Presidential pardon in September 2010.

We are asked to accept, according to Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj, that the expungement was granted as an act of mercy and in the public interest since Mr Booker Nhantsi can contribute to society.

But it is hard to see why an attorney convicted by a court of law for stealing a client's money from a trust fund should be forgiven and just what his contribution to the public welfare would be. Mr Nhantsi's relationship with the Acting NDPP (and his own past in that organisation as a member of the Scorpions) must surely have been pivotal to this act of Presidential grace.

The Mail & Guardian reported that Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba previously faced internal charges of unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, fraud and bringing the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) into disrepute. The charges were based on her alleged involvement in a campaign against former Gauteng Scorpions boss Gerrie Nel aimed at thwarting the arrest of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

The NPA is being turned into an instrument of political factionalism instead of an institution acting without fear of favour. As the Rev. Frank Chikane details on p. 98 of his recent book, Eight Days in September, "some within the ANC believed that Zuma had been falsely accused and was thus a victim of state institutions including the NPA".

President Zuma appears to be working on the assumption that it is his turn to pack the prosecuting authority with his own people, and perhaps the expungement of Nhantsi's record should be seen in this light. Is it a favour to the Acting NDPP or is it intended to prepare the way for an appointment for Nhantsi?

The Constitutional Court has already pronounced that the pardon or reprieve of a single prisoner would be difficult to challenge, but that this does not mean that a court would be powerless if a President abused the prerogative power by acting in bad faith. We will attempt to establish through a set of Parliamentary questions what the full extent of the President's thinking was.

The simple fact is that the arbitrary grant of pardon, in this case expungement, when conviction or imprisonment followed a full judicial process brings the administration of justice into disrepute, as President Mandela said.

Dene Smuts, Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development

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