Brainpower-deficient NPA restricts star lawyer Willie Hofmeyr to 3 hour day

John Clarke at Mtentu Hutted Camp, Wild Coast October 2006
John GI Clarke.

Democracy gives enormous power to its citizens. But it also charges them with the responsibility of giving a damn. And there are few better examples than John Clarke, author of the piece below. I met John some years ago through his wife, a classmate from our schooldays in Newcastle. He has produced some excellent pieces for, but I doubt any is more timely than today’s contribution following the poorly conceived charges against Pravin Gordhan by SA’s National Prosecuting Authority. Clarke penned this note to the Public Protector – which is self-explanatory. Read it. – Alec Hogg 

From John GI Clarke*

I wish hereby to lodge a complaint for investigation by your office against Advocate Shaun Abrahams, the National Director of Public Prosecution, alleging that he is guilty of maladministration, misuse of official resources and abuse of authority, because of his failure to make optimal use of the exceptional skills, ability, experience and commitment of one of his senior deputies, Mr Willie Hofmeyr.

On 11 August during an interview with the Special Parliamentary Committee that is currently tasked to make a recommendation to the President on a fit and proper candidate for appointment as the next Public Protector, one of the 14 shortlisted candidates Mr Hofmeyr was asked what the scope and responsibilities were of his current job as head of Legal Affairs in the National Prosecuting Authority, and why he wanted to leave.

Willie Hofmeyr
Willie Hofmeyr

In response he said that he was no longer doing the job for which he was originally recruited and for which he had the expertise. He said he was now simply “being an efficient post box” in handling correspondence with the State Attorney. He said “It is not a job that makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning and it is not a job that keeps me busy for more than three hours a day”.

It appears that his current duties are very light in comparison to his previous leadership appointments as head of the Special Investigative Unit and Asset Forfeiture Unit, in which he distinguished himself. He admitted to experiencing intense frustration in his current job as he is accustomed to working up to 14 hours a day.

Members of the multi-party committee seemed unanimous in their concern that it was unacceptable that a man of Mr Hofmeyr’s experience, proven competence and integrity is so under-utilised. One of the Committee Members Mr Swart MP, commented that it was scandalous that a man of Mr Hofmeyr’s ability was being so underutilised and under- appreciated.

The Chair Dr Makhozi Khoza MP agreed with him and proposed that the members take the matter concern to the appropriate Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for action. While this is encouraging, I believe the public interest needs to be more specifically served by the institution of state that has impartial powers so as to ensure that the scandalous situation is addressed from the point of view of the broad public interest.

I am therefore lodging this complaint in my professional capacity as a social worker who must, in terms of my professional code of practice, challenge social injustice especially where the interests of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged are involved. I have clients who are losing faith in the criminal justice system. For example, the Amadiba community in the Eastern Cape with whom I have been working for over a decade, still await justice after well documented failures by the SAPS and NPA to deal with conflict and violence that has led to several unsolved murders, going as far back as 2003.

This video recording of an interview with one of my clients illustrates.

It tells of a mother who gave birth to her child in the early hours of the morning on 1st January because of a reign of terror being conducted by a gang who had driven them out of their homes. There were arrests made and four men were charged with attempted murder, assault and robbery. Securing a prompt prosecution is proving to be tedious with repeated postponements.

Then in 22nd March Mr Sikosephe ‘Bazooka’ Radebe was gunned down in front of his family. The assassins remain at large, five months later. See this report from ENCA’s Checkpoint program.

Against this backdrop you can understand how outraged I feel to discover that a man of Mr Hofmeyr’s experience and integrity is sitting idle for most of the day in his office in the NPA headquarters in Pretoria. Given the daily problems I face in my work and the generally very high levels of unprosecuted crimes committed in South Africa the squanderous underutilization of human potential is only serving to further de-legitimise the NPA and undermine the Rule of Law.

One of Zapiro's classics. More can be found
One of Zapiro’s classics. More can be found

Chapter 10, Section 195 of the Constitution is quite clear in stating what is expected of all organs of State in terms of the basic values and principles of that they must exemplify in public administration.

1. Public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including the following principles:

a. A high standard of professional ethics must be promoted and maintained.

b. Efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted.

c. Public administration must be development-oriented.

d. Services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.

e. People’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making.

f. Public administration must be accountable.

g. Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.

h. Good human-resource management and career-development practices, to maximise human potential, must be cultivated.

i. Public administration must be broadly representative of the South African people, with employment and personnel management practices based on ability, objectivity, fairness, and the need to redress the imbalances of the past to achieve broad representation.

If what Mr Hofmeyr says is true, this amounts to prima facie evidence that at least sub-sections (b), (f) and especially (h) are currently being violated and therefore I allege that the National Director of Public Prosecutions is guilty of maladministration, misuse of official resources and abuse of authority.

In compliance the normal procedure, I have lodged a complaint against Advocate Abrahams via the NPA hotline (reference number 3016H12N5931) but in view of his powerful position, I am simultaneously reporting this to you as a precautionary measure.

While Parliament is now aware of the unacceptable situation, given the current political climate I believe an immediate intervention by the Public Protector is necessary so that Advocate Abrahams (and whoever else in the top structure of the NPA is co-responsible for this) are held to account for what appear to be violations of three specific sub clauses of Section 195 of the Constitution, referred to above.

Given the critical challenges we face in promoting and upholding the Rule of Law, and the serious state of affairs in the Criminal Justice System, I allege that the public interest is not being served by having a highly paid and proven civil servant languishing in what appears to be relatively meaningless job.

Be assured of my commitment to assist wherever possible to enhance the legitimacy, effectiveness and efficiency of organs of State especially those within the Security Cluster, in the interests of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

  • John GI Clarke is a consultant social worker, development facilitator and Writer.
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