Simelane ducks in the dock

It wasn’t me. This was the essence of former prosecutions head Menzi Simelane’s defence yesterday against misconduct charges.

President Jacob Zuma appointed Simelane the head of the National Prosecuting Authority in 2009.

In 2012 the Constitutional Court ruled his appointment was invalid and that Zuma had failed to consider the finding of the Ginwala Inquiry that Simelane had blocked the passage of crucial evidence.

The Johannesburg Society of Advocates on Monday commenced its inquiry into Simelane’s fitness to remain on the roll of advocates.

The bulk of the charges against Simelane involve the Ginwala Inquiry, which was created in 2007 to determine then prosecutions head Vusi Pikoli’s fitness for office.

It is alleged the legal team Simelane headed failed to disclose correspondence that would have assisted the commission. The relevant correspondence was between former president Thabo Mbeki and then Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla, and correspondence between Mabandla and Pikoli.

It is believed the letters provided evidence that the minister unlawfully sought to interfere in the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority.

Simelane yesterday faced a barrage of questions from prosecutor Mike Hellens about whether or not he headed the government legal team at the Ginwala Inquiry.

“Did you or did you not head the team? Do you want to say you played a lesser role in preparing government submissions?” Hellens asked.

Simelane said he did not know what was meant by the term “headed”.

Hellens said that, during the Ginwala Inquiry, Pikoli’s advocate Wim Trengove had asked Simelane whether he headed the government team and Simelane had answered in the affirmative.

“Why have you have backed off from the control of government submission?” Hellens asked.

Simelane said he was not backing off.

“There were two parties that were involved. I was responsible for providing support from the department’s side,” Simelane said.

Simelane said while he was intimately involved in the preparation of the government submissions, he said it was not in his competence to make the call whether to submit the correspondence to the Ginwala Inquiry.

Hellens asked whether Simelane would have included the letters in government’s submissions had he led the legal team. Simelane said this would have been a consideration.

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