Mxolisi Nxasana was fully aware of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) history of challenges related to political interference, which led to those appointed to head the law enforcement agency not completing their full 10-year term in office – and he soon became a victim thereof as well.
The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture today heard testimony from the former director of public prosecutions (NDPP), Nxasana, the sixth-most senior NPA official appointed on October 1, 2013.
He told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of political interference, which affected the independence of the institution.
“From this history and also what I experienced at the NPA, there has been political interference, as well as external interference that impacted on the work of the NPA and its stability,” said Nxasana.
His appointment was shrouded in controversy, which left him “shocked”.
In 2013, Nxasana received a call from former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, who told him he was mandated by Zuma to head-hunt a candidate to fill the position of NDPP, left vacant in 2012 by Menzi Simelane.
“I was shocked and surprised,” said Nxasana of the call.
Asked by commission evidence leader Paul Pretorius on whether there was any formal job interview before being appointed NDPP, Nxasana said: “That was not done.”
A necessary security clearance application, he said, was only completed after he assumed office.
Nxasana was told by Hulley, who asked for his curriculum vitae: “The president is under pressure to appoint,” and as far as he was aware, the position was not even advertised.
During a 30-minute meeting with Zuma at his official presidential residence, Nxasana said the former president told him in isiZulu: “This is a position where spears will be directed at you.”
“As I was leaving, I think it was Mr Hulley who asked whether I had anything to say, and I responded by saying my father, who was the president’s comrade, was a trade unionist. I think it was necessary to mention that at the time,” said Nxasana.
It later emerged that Nomgcobo Jiba – who acted in the position at the time – had been promised a permanent appointment by then justice and constitutional development minister Jeff Radebe.
Upon delivering a speech to staff at the NPA after assuming office, Nxasana declared that he would be the first NDPP to serve a full term, after which he overheard a man in the corridor who said he would be surprised if he lasted for three months in the job.
That man turned out to be Jiba’s ally, Lawrence Mrwebi, implicated in previous state capture testimonies.
Jiba was said to have been on a campaign to discredit Nxasana.
The mention of Jiba by Nxasana during his testimony, drew a sharp response from her senior counsel, Vuyani Ngalwana, who argued that evidence implicating Jiba “should be held back” until her legal team has reviewed the evidence.
Ngalwana said Jiba was concerned about the timing of Nxasana’s evidence because she feared the allegations made by Nxasana could “colour” how her dismissal was put to the National Assembly.
“Any allegation that is made against a person is taken by society to be the truth before it is tested,” said Ngalwana.
Pretorius said Nxasana’s evidence was not timed to prejudice Jiba.
“Those consequences can never be an excuse to not lead evidence,” said Pretorius.
Zondo ruled that the proceedings continued because evidence led was already in the public domain.
The commission will today hear the testimony of Cynthia Agnes Soraya, former head of financial risk management at South African Airways.