Former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Mxolisi Nxasana, who left with a R17m golden handshake, says political and external interference in the organisation’s decision-making undermined its integrity and effectiveness.

Nxasana fell out with former president Jacob Zuma and was effectively bought out of office after he refused to leave office. Zuma later said in court proceedings that Nxasana asked to be removed as national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) — a claim Nxasana vehemently disputes. 

Lobby groups Corruption Watch, Freedom Under Law and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution went to court to have the agreement reviewed and set aside and Nxasana was ordered to pay back R10m.

The judgment led to the top job in the NPA being declared vacant by the Constitutional Court.

This opened up the post, which is now held by Shamila Batohi and has been hailed as a step in restoring the integrity of the NPA.

“My conclusions are briefly that political and external interference in the decision-making of the NPA, undermined its integrity and effectiveness and served to erode public confidence in the organisation,” Nxasana told the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday. 

He said the failure of president Jacob Zuma to “decisively” act against former deputy NDPP Nomgcobo Jiba and former special director Lawrence Mrwebi “in particular harmed the organisation”.

Jiba was acting NDPP when Nxasana was appointed into the position, while Mrwebi was head of the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit.

Relations between Nxasana and the pair, key allies of former president Zuma, were frosty.

Nxasana had to deal with the aftermath of politically sensitive prosecutorial decisions taken by the pair. Most prominent among these was the decision to drop charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, a fellow key ally of Zuma. 

The former NDPP said the justice and correctional services portfolio committee, which should provide oversight at the NPA,  did little or nothing in that regard and did not intervene in issues relating to Jiba and Mrwebi.

By the time Nxasana asked Zuma to institute disciplinary processes against them, the courts had already made adverse findings against the pair in different cases. He recommended that the pair be suspended pending the outcome of the processes against them. 

Nxasana told the commission that instead of acting against Jiba and Mrwebi the “unfortunate situation” arose where Zuma acted against him. 

He said he heard rumours at the time that Jiba and Mrwebi were “bragging that nothing will happen to them”. He said it came as no surprise in the end that Zuma did not act against the pair. 

“(It) just confirmed the rumour that I was hearing,” Nxasana said. 

Jiba and Mrwebi were subjected to an inquiry into their fitness to hold office early this year, after Ramaphosa suspended them pending the outcome of the inquiry by retired Constitutional court judge Justice Yvonne Mokgoro. 

The inquiry recommended that president Cyril Ramaphosa fire them, which he did. His decision still needs the blessing of parliament. Parliament can either endorse the president’s decision or restore them back to their positions after its deliberations.

However, the deliberations were put on hold after Jiba successfully interdicted the Mokgoro report pending its review.