Justice minister calls for calm at NPA

Michael Masutha has asked staff not to abuse disciplinary procedures to fight internal battles.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha has asked NPA staff to hold out on using their powers against each other. Picture:Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

PRETORIA - Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, has appealed to senior staff at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) not to abuse disciplinary procedures in order to fight internal battles.

Masutha spent several hours at the NPA's headquarters in Pretoria today in the wake of reports about ongoing infighting and a power struggle involving key staff, including its head and deputy.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to decide on whether he will initiate a commission of inquiry to address the ongoing controversies, including whether National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana is fit for the role.

The prosecutions boss recently made headlines after he was refused a high-level security clearance due to previous brushes with the law, including being tried for murder in the 1980s.He was later acquitted on the grounds of self-defence.

Nxasana didn't disclose this when taking the position at the NPA last year.

The controversy has since deepened with allegations that he may be linked to a second killing.

Today, Masutha urged staff with the authority to take disciplinary steps against their colleagues to hold off on any such action pending a decision by the president on how to proceed.

Masutha specifically requested that staff avoid actions "such as issuing grievances against each other that are directly linked to this matter or are calculated to have an influence."

He said today's visit was an attempt to stabilise relations within the authority and urge staff not to use the media to rage their turf-war.

Meanwhile, Corruption Watch Director David Lewis says the infighting at the NPA is seriously damaging the fight against crime and corruption in South Africa, adding that this kind of problem keeps rearing its head at other organisations.

"That's a consequence of these continual leadership fiascos at almost every single important law enforcement agency in the country."

He also says he can't understand why the claims against Nxasana were not discovered before he was appointed.

"It's difficult to avoid the impression that they may have been known about beforehand but are now being used in circumstances where for some reason or another it's convenient to have the NPA head shuffled out again."