Days of Zondo

Zuma lawyer asked former NPA head Nxasana to lie to court, Zondo hears

By Rebecca Davis 2 September 2019

Appearing before the Zondo Commission on Monday, former NPA head Mxolisi Nxasana testified that Jacob Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley asked him to co-operate with former president Jacob Zuma in defending litigation related to the removal of Nxasana from office. Nxasana said that in a meeting with Hulley in 2015, he was asked to confirm to the court that he had requested that Zuma remove him from office – which Nxasana refused to do.

The removal of former NPA head Mxolisi Nxasana was in the spotlight at the Zondo Commission on Monday as Nxasana took the stand for the third time at the inquiry.

Nxasana’s ousting in 2015 paved the way for former president Jacob Zuma to appoint Shaun Abrahams as head of the prosecuting authority. When NGOs Freedom Under Law and Corruption Watch subsequently took Nxasana’s removal to court, Zuma claimed in court papers that Nxasana had requested to step down from the role ahead of an impending inquiring into his fitness to hold office.

Nxasana has repeatedly denied that he offered to resign, and again stated this adamantly to the Zondo Commission.

The president [Zuma], his advisers, the [former] ministers of justice, both [Jeff] Radebe and [Michael] Masutha: If they still have a conscience, they know very well that at no stage I made a request to vacate office.”

If he had done so, Nxasana said, on what grounds could he have demanded the controversial R17.3-million “golden handshake” he was given upon stepping down?

On Monday, Nxasana repeated his claim to the Zondo Commission that he was forced to leave office due to the fall-out from his conflict with NPA officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, who he alleges enjoyed protection from former president Zuma.

Nxasana had recommended that disciplinary action be instituted against Jiba and Mrwebi in 2014 as a result of their involvement in withdrawing charges against former crime boss Richard Mdluli.

He told the Zondo Commission that he had received reports at the time that Jiba and Mrwebi were “bragging” that no action would be taken against them, and said it thus “came as no surprise” when Zuma then opted to act against Nxasana himself rather than Jiba and Mrwebi.

Nxasana told the inquiry that after being pressured to resign, he received a call from former State Security Minister David Mahlobo in 2015 asking Nxasana to meet in Durban.

After some discussion, Mahlobo arranged with his chief of staff that Nxasana meet with Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley the following day.

At that meeting, Nxasana says he was asked by Hulley to co-operate with Zuma in defending the legal challenge brought against his axing by Freedom Under Law and Corruption Watch.

He asked me if I was aware of the litigation,” Nxasana said.

I made it clear to him that I have seen the papers but I don’t have energy any more.”

Hulley then suggested that Nxasana should “work together with President Zuma”, Nxasana said and offered to pay Nxasana’s legal costs in the matter.

I gathered that he wanted me to confirm, or to help President Zuma, [by saying] that I made a request to vacate office,” Nxasana told the Zondo Commission.

Nxasana says that in response, he told Hulley: “I am an officer of the court and I cannot mislead the court”.

The next the former NPA head heard of the matter was when he was phoned by a journalist asking for his comment on Zuma’s affidavit in the matter, which stated that Nxasana had requested to step down.

I was disappointed and angry,” Nxasana said.

He subsequently arranged another meeting with Mahlobo in order to raise the issue of why the court had been submitted “averments about me in affidavits which they know very well – including Mahlobo – are not correct”.

Nxasana says that during the same meeting, Mahlobo phoned former justice minister Michael Masutha and asked why this claim had been made in the affidavit.

Masuthu answered that “he was advised that I had accepted that version,” Nxasana said.

In his previous appearances before the Zondo Commission, Nxasana has made it clear that he feels anger about the handling of his situation not just towards former president Jacob Zuma but also towards former justice ministers Masutha and Jeff Radebe.

On Monday, Nxasana also expressed frustration towards Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice, which he accused of doing “little or nothing” to intervene regarding Jiba and Mrwebi.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2018 that because the manner in which Nxasana vacated office was unconstitutional and unlawful, his accompanying R17.2-million golden handshake was also illegal. Nxasana was ordered to pay back more than R10-million.

Asked by Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday if he had paid back this money, Nxasana said that he had not – because the money was spent on re-establishing a life for himself beyond the NPA.

I don’t have it, Chair,” Nxasana said.

That concluded what is likely to be Nxasana’s last appearance before the Zondo Commission, which turns on Monday afternoon to consider evidence relating to the capture of the state broadcaster. DM

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