National director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane has removed top prosecutor Gerrie Nel and his team from the case against former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego and from the investigation of Glenn Agliotti in connection with the death of Brett Kebble.
The move will mean yet more delays in both cases.
In a statement Simelane said: “Two months ago the DPP South Gauteng took a strategic decision in the interest of justice to replace the prosecution team in both cases.
“Mr Mphego made representations to the NDPP for a permanent stay of prosecution and therefore it is not fair to overburden the same team with so much work when we have many equally capable prosecutors.
“Hence the decision that they concentrate on the Selebi case so that it doesn’t affect other cases where they are involved.”
Mphego is facing charges of defeating the ends of justice relating to his clandestine 2008 interview with Agliotti while the latter was a state witness. After the encounter Agliotti recanted his corruption allegations against former police commissioner Jackie Selebi. Selebi has used the interview extensively in his corruption trial defence.
Simelane assigned a new prosecution team, headed by advocate Dan Dakana, to the case at the end of March.
Mphego was due to appear in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday, when Dakana was expected to ask for a postponement.
In a letter obtained by amaBhungane, Dakana says he will not be able to proceed with the case because of its complexity and the limited time the new team had to prepare for the matter.
Simelane’s removal of Nel’s team comes after Mphego submitted representations to him in January, arguing that his case could jeopardise state security.
Mphego was charged in January 2009 over his alleged involvement in video recording and procuring an affidavit from drug trafficker Agliotti. In the video Agliotti accused the Scorpions of conspiracy and denied bribing Selebi.
In his representations Mphego said he had intercepted phone calls between NPA officials allegedly planning to defeat the ends of justice by thwarting a police investigation into Nel.
A source in the prosecuting authority said that Simelane “felt that Nel was conflicted in this matter; that’s why he removed him”.
Nel, also the prosecutor in the Selebi trial, came under fire from a defence witness in the Selebi trial this week. The former acting head of the NPA’s integrity management unit, Prince Mokotedi, testified that he had investigated allegations that Nel had siphoned funds from the confidential “C fund”, used by the Scorpions to pay informants.
Mokotedi told the South Gauteng High Court that during his investigation he had trouble gaining access to top-secret documents and that former NPA boss Leonard McCarthy had denied requests for them.
He said he had then approached Selebi for help and the police chief had told him that he was “closing in” on Scorpions members who had siphoned off funds.
Cross-examined by Nel, Mokotedi referred to an instance when Nel’s name had come up in connection with an R80 000 claim for the payment of an informant who had tipped off the authority about an impending drugs shipment.
Said Mokotedi: “When I interviewed you, you told me the ship never reached the shore.” Nel retorted: “I know you want to say lots of things, like ‘Nel was implicated’. That is why you are here, to mention my name.”
Simelane confirmed this week the integrity unit is not investigating Nel.