Resuming his testimony at the state capture commission on Monday, former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Mxolisi Nxasana testified that the “narrative” created during his time as the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) that he was hellbent on reopening the prosecution of then president Jacob Zuma was not true.
He told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that his opponents at the NPA, especially then deputy Nomgcobo Jiba, were actually eyeing his position and trying to get him removed by allegedly peddling this story. Nxasana said the alleged plot also included Lawrence Mrwebi and others.
He said he’d done his best to improve the relationship with Jiba and Mrwebi, but to no avail. Jiba and Mrwebi ultimately also left the NPA under a cloud, and Jiba continues to fight to get her job back.
Nxasana was also offered a controversial multimillion-rand golden handshake to vacate his position in a process he remains deeply unhappy about.
According to Nxasana, NPA risk specialist Terrence Joubert told him of the Jiba-Mrwebi plot, claiming a Hawks officer, Welcome Mhlongo, had been told by Jiba to “get dirt” on him.
Nxasana told the commission that reports surfaced that unknown people had attempted dig up information about his past shortly after his appointment at the NPA, allegedly at Jiba’s behest.
This included people asking questions about his arrest and acquittal on charges of murder in 1985, which was used as a pretext to target him.
Nxasana testified about a recording in which Mhlongo could be heard telling Joubert that Jiba wanted him removed from his position and had instructed him and others to work hard in a bid to obtain information on him that could be used against him. When the commission tried to play and listen to the audio recording in question on Monday afternoon, the attempt was initially abandoned due to poor audio quality.
Nxasana testified that when Zuma attempted to suspend Nxasana in 2014, he filed an urgent court interdict in an attempt to get Zuma to provide him with further clarity on why he wanted to suspend him.
Nxasana wanted to meet with Zuma, but was told that the then president was suspicious about it, believing he might wear a wire to record him.
Nxasana then joked that he had said at the time: “Tell him,I am prepared to meet him naked”, if that would put his mind at ease.
This eventually led to a meeting with Zuma, presumably with both parties fully clothed, at which Nxasana says the president told him he had been informed of meetings between Nxasana and the former NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka, who Nxasana said was known for “hating the president”.
This, according to Nxasana, was false. No meetings between himself and Ngcuka took place, he testified.
Nxasana said that he had no previous relationship with Joubert and did not know why he shared information of the alleged plot against him on the part of Jiba and Mrwebi.
“I do not know Mr Joubert and the information that he sent me was unsolicited,” he said.
Nxasana said that he asked Zuma to consider taking disciplinary action against Jiba, Mrwebi and Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi.
“The response that I received was from Justice Minister Masutha. He threw the ball back at told me and to explain what measures I had taken to address the issues.
“I told him I had sent a memorandum to the president. I am still waiting on the president to intervene and take disciplinary action.”
He said that at a later meeting at Emperors Palace in 2014, Masutha told Nxasana that Zuma had agreed to intervene, but that never happened.
The former NDPP also repeated previous claims made at the commission that he was appointed at the prosecuting authority without having undergone a job interview or completed any application forms.
Nxasana told the commission that the hiring process was not followed, leading to his appointment to the position in 2013.
The Constitutional Court last year ordered Nxasana to pay back a sum of more than R10 million due to the illegality of the R17.3 million “golden handshake” Zuma gave him to leave his position as NDPP.
Nxasana claimed last year he did not have the money any more, and had supposedly already spent it.
“Remember, when the money came, I didn’t steal it, it was paid into my account. I wasn’t working, and I had liabilities,” Nxasana said during a television interview.
The former NDPP also said he had regarded Zuma as a father because his own father and the former president had been in the ANC fold during the struggle for liberation.
“I respected him, and I still respect him to this day as a father, but I was very disappointed at what he did to me because this also affected my family a great deal,” Nxasana said.
He said the position he found himself in today, that of a victim, was because Zuma had allowed himself to be intimidated by individuals who were pursuing personal agendas in ousting him, Nxasana, from the office of the NDPP.
Zuma has admitted the deal with Nxasana was unlawful.
Nxasana said if he were still heading the NPA, he would have read the docket, considered the evidence contained in it, and if he had been satisfied that there was a prima facie case against the former president, he would indeed have reinstated the corruption charges against Zuma.
Nxasana said he not only felt betrayed by Zuma, but also by the former president’s then lawyer Michael Hulley, then justice minister Michael Masutha and former justice minister Jeff Radebe.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers. Background reporting, Daniel Friedman).