Hands off Hofmeyr and the Asset Forfeiture Unit
The integrity and efficiency of Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head, Willie Hofmeyr, is beyond doubt and the Democratic Alliance (DA) advises National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Menzi Simelane, that we will encourage the Parliamentary Justice Committee to use its considerable powers under the NPA Act to scrutinise the NDPP's performance and to stop any attempt to drive Hofmeyr out of office.
No-one need doubt the truth of the statements made to The Sunday Times by two anonymous prosecution staff members to the effect that "they want to close the Asset Forfeiture Unit down" and that the unit is doomed just like the Scorpions (see report).
Adv Simelane's intentions were put down in black on white in his Strategic Plan for 2010-2015: "the unit has been disbanded and included as a division in the regional offices". When I confronted a visibly shocked Justice Minister Jeff Radebe with this statement in Parliament in late April 2010, he rode off and temporarily rescued the unit, placating the public via the media, where the AFU has built up a profile for itself.
A week later he reported back to Parliament in his Budget Vote that the specialised units (including the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit) are the key pillars in the fight against crime and corruption. But the National Director of Public Prosecutions appears to enjoy special Presidential protection: when I confronted President Zuma during his vote on 12th May 2010 with the fact that the SCCU had already been disbanded as a national unit and separated from its head, Adv Chris Jordaan (despite the fact that it exists by Presidential Proclamation) he replied that all restructuring at the NPA would be stopped and that restructuring would be deferred pending the completion of Ministerial performance agreements.
Since that time the Outcomes Performance Regime has been adopted by Cabinet, and the Justice Minister as well as the NDPP now justify the continued decapitation of the units under Outcome 3: "all people in South Africa are and feel safe". This absurd aspirational statement purports to justify the fact that prosecutorial personnel appointed to the units now report to the provincial Directors of Public Prosecution but have a "dotted reporting line" to the Heads who used to run them: a case of cutting along the dotted line.
It is clear that the Justice Minister is hopelessly out of touch with conditions in the NPA when he tells the Sunday Times that "he is not aware of any tensions between Simelane and his staff" and "that the NPA is on course, both from its strategic positioning as well as operationally".
The NPA is a miserable place under Adv Simelane, where top crime-fighters are harassed by random integrity checks and (in the case of Adv Jordaan) driven into retirement. The NPA announced in a public servants' forum early last year that he was retiring when he had no such intention, now he is indeed retired.
No-one need doubt that the referral to the police of a complaint by Dave King about allegedly improper plea bargain arrangements, together with a Nehawu criminal charge, is the latest instalment in long-running attempts to neutralise and get rid of Willie Hofmeyr. He was advised by the NDPP some time ago to choose between his jobs as head of the AFU and the SIU (which functions under its own act) when the NDPP has no say in the matter. It can in addition be no coincidence that police charges occur at the same time as the harassment of the Public Protector.
The DA has made a preliminary proposal in the Justice Committee that the possibility should be investigated of turning the SIU into the independent corruption unit which the Constitutional Court requires in terms of the Glenister (Scorpions) judgment.
If this is possible, it would also be possible to give Willie Hofmeyr guaranteed tenure and to enable him to continue his corruption-busting work away from the constraints of an NPA where (to cite only one example of which there must be many more) his asset-freezing efforts in respect of arms deal consultant Fana Hlongwane were frustrated by the NDPP.
Statement issued by Dene Smuts MP, DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, July 17 2011
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