Meddling: Former national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana told the state capture commission there was political and external interference at the National Prosecuting Authority, which dented the public’s confidence in the institution. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI/SUNDAY TIMES
Meddling: Former national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana told the state capture commission there was political and external interference at the National Prosecuting Authority, which dented the public’s confidence in the institution. Picture: THAPELO MOREBUDI/SUNDAY TIMES

Scandal-plagued former president Jacob Zuma’s scant regard for due processes came under the spotlight at the state capture commission on Wednesday.

Former national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana told the commission how Zuma lieutenants made life difficult for him, having declared that he would not serve out his full term. There was also political and external interference at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which dented the public’s confidence in the crucial state institution, he said.

On Wednesday, Nxasana told the commission chairperson, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, that he neither applied for, nor was he interviewed for the national director of public prosecutions position.

He detailed how he had an “informal interaction” with Zuma at his official residence in Pretoria, which lasted not more than 30 minutes, where his erstwhile attorney Michael Hulley and legal adviser Bonisile Makhene were present.

It was not clear why Zuma used his personal lawyer to scout for a candidate for such a top government job.

“Hulley assured me that this is not an interview of any sort, that president Zuma just wanted to interact with me,” Nxasana told the inquiry.

At the informal meeting, held a day before his appointment on August 30, 2013, which came into effect on October 1 2013, Zuma asked Nxasana if he had the courage to take on the post.

“I responded: ‘Yes, I do.’ He then said something in isiZulu that the position ifana nomkhonto esuke ibheke kuwena [is like a spear pointing at you],” Nxasana said, noting that he understood Zuma to mean it was a difficult task to handle.

He detailed how prior to this he had received a call from Hulley saying he was looking for a candidate to fill the national director of public prosecutions position as mandated by Zuma. Hulley had also asked Nxasana if he would be willing to take over the appointment.

The commission also heard that when Nxasana officially took over from then acting director Nomgcobo Jiba, the then special director of public prosecutions, Lawrence Mrwebi, had remarked that Nxasana would not last three months at the helm.

PODCAST: Sunday Times Politics Weekly - Public Protector plays politics?

For more episodes, click here.

Subscribe: iono.fm | Spotify | Apple Podcast | Pocket Casts | Player.fm

Jiba and Mrwebi were fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April 2019 after a judicial inquiry found that the pair, Zuma’s staunch allies, were not fit and proper to hold office.

Nxasana told the commission that in September 2013, a month before he took office, he had heard of officials driving around his township of uMlazi, Durban, asking people about his history and involvement in a murder in 1985.

“It didn’t puzzle me at first. I thought it was part of the vetting process, but this thing gained momentum until I got to the office. I learnt there were members within the NPA who were responsible for that.” 

Nxasana said he received an unsolicited affidavit from NPA official Terrence Joubert, telling him about a campaign Jiba was leading to dig up dirt on him.

“The intention was to embarrass me so that the president [Zuma] will remove me as national director of public prosecutions and she would then stand a chance of being considered to act or be appointed permanently,” he said.

He later discovered that Jiba had been promised by then justice minister Jeff Radebe that she would be made a permanent national director of public prosecutions.

Nxasana was given a R17.3m golden handshake to leave the NPA in May 2015, after his fitness to hold office was questioned following reports that he had been denied a security clearance.

It was also reported at the time that he had had run-ins with the law regarding a murder charge he had faced more than three decades ago. Nxasana was acquitted of the charge after pleading that he had acted in self-defence.

In 2018, the Constitutional Court found the manner in which Nxasana vacated office and Shaun Abrahams’s subsequent appointment as NPA boss was unconstitutional and invalid. 

Nxasana was ordered to pay back R10.3m of the R17.3m payout. He is now an attorney in private practice.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za