NPA, Johannesburg Bar on collision course

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The National Prosecuting Authority and Johannesburg Bar Council are headed on a collision course over Jackie Selebi.

In a statement yesterday the bar council challenged acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe to explain why he went to a different magistrate - and at night - to have a warrant issued against national police Commissioner Jackie Selebi withdrawn.

The council also warned the government, saying available information on the Vusi Pikoli saga indicated interference with Constitutional safeguards .

"The continuing controversy and speculation about the suspension of the Pikoli required a strong and unambiguous response from government that there was not, and will not in future, be any political or other interference in the judicial system," said the council.

The council expressed dismay that the government's response had not been forthcoming, saying they were "forced to rely on what we glean from the media".

"It was disquieting that Mpshe apparently thought it appropriate to approach a different magistrate to the one who had issued the warrant of arrest for National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, to cancel the warrant, and that he did so after hours."

However, the NPA yesterday responded cautiously to the criticism, telling the media to exercise patience. This followed a flurry of enquires from journalists after the council issued a scathing statement against Mpshe and the government's suspension of Pikoli. It was even more alarming that he reportedly claimed he "doesn't know anything about the warrant".

Responding to the statement, NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the NPA respected their view.

"The NPA issued statements outlining the process to be embarked upon as well as communicating the rationale behind the review process," said Tlali.

Tlali said Mpshe had urged all members of the public and media to exercise patience in this regard because "nothing is a foregone conclusion at this stage".

The council praised Judge Phineas Mojapelo, deputy Judge President of the Witwatersrand for refusing to accede to Mokotedi's request.

"The independence of the judiciary and the constitutional requirement that the prosecuting authority exercised its functions without fear, favour or prejudice, were cornerstones of South Africa's young democracy.

"With the information in the public domain, it seems to us there may have been interference with these constitutional safeguards.

"If so, it is a crisis," the council said.

It said issues around Pikoli's suspension were not in isolation.

It was common knowledge that many government departments refused to comply with court judgments.

This showed a worrying disrespect for the courts.

There had been unwarranted attacks on the judiciary.