Ngcuka Defies the ANC
Khathu Mamaila, Jimmy Seepe
The National Director for Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, has defied an order by the ANC leadership to apologise to Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana.
This act of defiance puts Ngcuka on a collision course with President Thabo Mbeki, one which may cost the head of the Scorpions his job.
It also comes at a time when senior government officials have confirmed that an exit package was being arranged by the state's law advisers for Ngcuka.
His departure, senior government sources said, would see former Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi move to head the Scorpions.
Ramatlhodi has now applied for admission as an advocate of the Bar Council, a prerequisite for heading the National Prosecuting Authority.
ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe confirmed yesterday that he told both Ngcuka and former justice minister Penuell Maduna that they should apologise to Mushwana.
"They were wrong to attack the public protector. Nobody has the right to insult the office of the public protector," said Motlanthe.
Maduna sent an SMS apology to Mushwana. The message said: "Accept my own personal apology for the intemperate language Ngcuka and I used last weekend."
But Ngcuka did not apologise directly to Mushwana, as ordered by his party. Instead, he apologised to the South African public for "losing his cool".
Asked whether Ngcuka intended to apologise to Mushwana, his spokesperson, Sipho Ngwema, said: "No."
He emphasised that Ngcuka had already apologised to the South African public.
Maduna and Ngcuka launched a scathing attack on Mushwana following his report that found that Ngcuka had undermined the dignity of Deputy President Jacob Zuma when he told the media that while there was a prima facie case against the deputy president, he would not be charged as the case could not be won.
The public outburst created a storm in the ANC. The three individuals are strong personalities within the party.
Asked whether the ANC was considering charging Ngcuka with misconduct, Motlanthe said: "He is a leader of a state institution. When he made those statements, he was not acting as an ANC member.
"It is difficult. We can't act against him as an ANC member."
However, Maduna does not enjoy the same privilege. He is a member of the ANC's national executive committee. Motlanthe said Maduna's leadership role in the ANC would have made it easier for the party to deal with him had he not apologised to Mushwana.
Mushwana can open a criminal case against Ngcuka for insulting his office.
In terms of the constitution, any person found guilty of contempt of the public protector may get a fine of up to R40 000 or 12 months in prison, or both.
Ngcuka is reported to be under intense pressure from the ANC to resign.
However, Motlanthe said he was not aware of any pressure aimed at forcing Ngcuka to quit.
He said rumours that the head of the prosecution authority might resign followed Ngcuka's statement in December last year that he would go home and reflect on his role as the head of the NPA.
But Ngwema was adamant that there was no pressure on Ngcuka to quit. "If people are saying some in the ANC (want Ngcuka to resign), they should say who in the ANC."
However, City Press understands that Ngcuka is likely to be out of the position before the end of the year - with an "impressive golden handshake", according to one source.
It is understood that state law advisors are already at an advanced stage of finalising the details of an "exit package" for Ngcuka.
Senior government sources this week confirmed to City Press that it was a matter of time before the package was finalised and given to Ngcuka.
"We're not talking of a long period of time. It might happen very soon in order to enable the Scorpions to once again focus on their mandate," the source said.
While the state prepares to give Ngcuka a golden handshake, plans are already afoot to ensure that Ramatlhodi, who is being tipped to take over from Ngcuka, meets the requirements of the office.
At the moment the only criterion that stands in the way of the appointment of Ramatlhodi, who is a lawyer by profession, is that he has not been registered as an advocate by any bar council in the country.
Ramatlhodi, who studied at the University of the North before going into exile, was admitted to the Bar Council of Lesotho.
He returned to the country in 1990 together with other ANC leaders following the unbanning of political organisations.
Ramatlhodi has applied to the Pretoria High Court for admission as an advocate.
With acknowledgements to Khathu Mamaila, Jimmy Seepe and the City Press.