Former president Jacob Zuma had warned Mxolisi Nxasana, that he may face some “spears” should he take up the post of the country’s National Director of Public Prosecutions.
Nxasana had not even arrived in office when those started coming at him.
He told the State Capture Commission on Wednesday that efforts to oust him began as soon as he was appointed in 2013.
He relayed how a “Colonel Mhlongo” from KwaZulu-Natal had allegedly been tasked by his predecessor, former acting NDPP, Nomgcobo Jiba, to dig up dirt on him.
He became aware of this when Terence Joubert, then an NPA risk specialist, gave him an unsolicited affidavit and a recording of Joubert’s conversation with Mhlongo in which the plot to oust him was discussed.
Nxasana was appointed in 2013 after two brief meetings, one with Zuma’s then legal adviser, Michael Hulley, and later, one with Zuma.
The Commission heard there was no formal interview for his appointment, it simply began with a call from Zuma’s then legal adviser, Hulley.
Hulley had gone to see him at his Durban office where he allegedly told Nxasana that he was in the market for a new NDPP.
He allegedly said Zuma had given him three names of potential candidates but upon speaking to some in the legal fraternity in Durban, Nxasana’s name had come up.
“He asked if I was willing to take up the appointment.”
“I was shocked and surprised. I had chosen to become an attorney and never thought I could become a prosecutor.”
He said it had humbled him that colleagues had recognised in him the ability to head this institution.
A meeting was then scheduled for him to meet Zuma at his official residence in Pretoria around August that year.
Hulley, who also attended this meeting, allegedly told Nxasana that this was no “job interview”. It was simply labelled “an interaction”.
What I remember quite vividly was the president asking me if I had the courage to take up the position.”
Nxasana testified that he assumed the then president meant to ask whether he would be able to take decisions independently.”
“I remember he said, in isiZulu, that the position might be a very difficult task to handle and he described it like a position in terms of which spears would be directed at me.”
The meeting lasted roughly 30 minutes and Hulley allegedly told him the appointment would be announced in the coming days.
Nxasana says except for the meeting with Hulley and Zuma, he was never formally interviewed about his history, qualifications or his professional history.
He did, however, complete a security clearance about three months after taking up office in October 2013.
He said he did not know and had not seen if the position for the post was advertised.
“I have no idea if there were other candidates interviewed. I later on discovered that Advocate Jiba (then acting) was promised it by the then Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe.”
Unbeknown to Nxasana, the “spears,” a campaign allegedly driven by Jiba and former NPA special director, Lawrence Mrwebi, had been activated weeks before he set foot in the office in October 2013.
While still wrapping up his practice in September 2013, he heard there were people driving around in his former home town of Umlazi.
“These males were stopping people, asking around about me.”
“It didn’t cause me stress because I thought it was part of the vetting process but it gained momentum. When I arrived in office in October, I realised that it had been driven by people at the NPA.”
Nxasana then told the Commission that Joubert and another former NPA colleague had independently told him of efforts under way to embarrass him so he could be removed.
“I received an unsolicited email from Terence Joubert, a risk specialist at the NPA based in Durban. The mail contained an affidavit in which he told me there was a campaign by Jiba to dig up dirt about me.”
The purpose of the mission was to embarrass him so Zuma could remove him and she would slip back into the top job.
The affidavit also stated that two policemen had been assigned to the provincial director of public prosecutions, then Moipoine Noko, and had been given cars by the office of the provincial police chief, Mammonye Nbogeni.
“They were tasked with going around to find dirt about me,” Nxasana testified.
Joubert, he said, had played along and had recorded a conversation he had had with “Col Mhlongo” in which Mhlongo allegedly said Jiba had mandated him to go about investigating Nxasana.
Part of the plan was to try and pin Nxasana on Road Accident Fund fraud.
Apparently, Jiba had travelled to Durban around the time of Nxasana’s appointment.
“In terms of protocol, Joubert was responsible for security arrangements. He had to fetch her from King Shaka but after making arrangements, he received a call from Jiba’s secretary advising that he was not needed. Instead, Col Mhlongo would fetch her.”
Nxasana told the Commission that Mhlongo had allegedly told Joubert that she didn’t trust “this new guy” and instructed him to find incriminating information on him.
Not a single national prosecutions boss has completed a 10-year term of office – it has proven to be a poisoned chalice for each individual appointed since the inception of the post in 2001.
Bulelani Ngcuka, Vusi Pikoli, Menzi Simelane and Jiba, who had previously acted in the post, have each been removed by the country’s courts or by resigning after inquiries into their fitness to hold office.
In the case of Pikoli and Ngcuka, both were cleared of allegations of wrongdoing.
The Commission was told that notices to those implicated by Nxasana’s testimony will only be sent out after his evidence commences in view of the last-minute nature of his appearance. His appearance came at the direction of Commission chairman, deputy chief justice, Raymond Zondo.
Investigators have done an enormous amount of work ahead of his testimony and head of the Commission’s legal team, advocate Paul Pretorius, said of particular importance in his testimony were issues relating to the independence of the NPA and the impact of alleged politically motivated appointments at the institution.
His testimony on Wednesday also covered aspects of the Jiba’s ill-advised decision to authorise racketeering charges against former KwaZulu Natal Hawks boss, Johan Booysen. “There was not a shred of evidence,” Nxasana told the Commission.
Nxasana’s testimony continues. DM