After accepting a court ruling that Menzi Simelane's appointment as head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was invalid, President Jacob Zuma has named Simelane's controversial deputy Nomgcobo Jiba to act as the national director of public prosecutions.
On December 1, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that Simelane's appointment as the national director of public prosecutions in November 2009 was "inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid".
On Wednesday it emerged that Zuma had formally withdrawn his appeal against the SCA judgment in court papers filed with the Constitutional Court on December 23, and that Zuma had appointed Jiba to act in Simelane's stead.
Jiba briefly acted as head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) earlier this month, after Willem Heath resigned from the post following the publication of a City Press interview in which he alleged that former ANC and South Africa president Thabo Mbeki had initiated rape and corruption charges against Zuma and blocked investigations into corrupt practices.
After barely a week in the job, Jiba was abruptly replaced with Advocate Nomvula Mokhatla amid reports that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had failed to consult Zuma before naming her to the post. Radebe denied this.
In 2008 Jiba was suspended from the NPA after accusations that she was part of a conspiracy to have former Gauteng Scorpions head Gerrie Nel arrested before he could lay corruption charges against former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who was later convicted on similar charges.
Charges of misconduct and bringing the NPA into disrepute were later dropped.
Zuma's dodgy new NPA choice
Zuma appointed Jiba as the deputy national director of public prosecutions in January this year, a decision condemned by the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance.
"Advocate Jiba -- on all available versions of her history at the NPA -- engaged in both political and personal plotting utterly unbecoming of a prosecutor, in each case directed at senior prosecutor advocate Gerrie Nel," DA justice spokesperson Dene Smuts said at the time.
Last week the president appointed advocate Nomvula Mokhatla, the NPA's deputy national director of public prosecutions, to act as the head of SIU instead of Jiba.
The DA said they were "encouraged" by Mokhatla's appointment.
The SIU and Simelane debacles came in the wake of an outcry over Zuma's decision to appoint Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice of the Constitutional Court in September, following the president's "unconstitutional" attempt to lengthen the term of then chief justice Sandile Ngcobo.
All of these decisions have come in a space of less than five months with opposition parties and analysts alike condemning Zuma for his apparent "blundering", and questioning the quality of the president's legal advice.
Following the Ngcobo calamity, the role of chief state law adviser Enver Daniels in Zuma's choices was questioned.
Radebe has flatly refused to shoulder any blame for the blunders.
In November, meanwhile, Zuma called in his personal lawyer Michael Hulley to become his presidential legal advisor in early November.
"Mr Hulley's arrival was to reinforce the legal team -- not only in the presidency itself but across the board in the department of Justice," Maharaj noted.
But, the jury is still out on whether Hulley's experience in helping Zuma stave off charges of rape and corruption will lead to better overall legal decision making, or whether the controversial figure he cuts will be continued to be mired in the scandal surrounding his role in the Aurora mining saga.
When approached for comment prior to the SCA appeal withdrawal, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj would not be drawn into commenting on Zuma's confidence in his legal advisors.
"People are allowed to speculate -- just know that when there is a problem President Zuma acts," Maharaj said.
Maharaj maintained that as a constitutional democracy people were always free to hold opinions -- even if they are negative -- but also warned against the ease of "sucking your thumb" to form your views.
"It is a narrow way of looking at things, to label these as mere mishaps. This is a fact of grappling with the realities on the ground when you are building a constitutional democracy," said Maharaj. -- Additional reporting by Sapa.
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