CAPE TOWN – Willie Hofmeyr said he believed it was right that the decision on whether or not to pursue corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma should ultimately be decided by the courts.
He was pressed on his role in that decision by MPs interviewing him for the job of Public Protector.
Hofmeyr, the former head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, was asked point blank by Economic Freedom Fighters deputy leader Floyd Shivambu whether he should not be suspected as seeking high office to shield Zuma from further scrutiny and charges.
“How should we trust you … we suspect that you are just an extension of the person you decided not to charge,” Shivambu said.
Hofmeyr evenly replied: “I am not coming to the Public Protector to protect anybody, other than the public.”
He said he had no role in the decision not to charge Zuma along with his advisor Schabir Shaik, then reflected on the NPA’s decision seven years ago to withdraw 783 criminal charges against Zuma shortly before the 2009 national elections as a “rather lengthy and painful story” and said history would judge him and the others who took it.
But he maintained that there was “irrefutable evidence that the previous head of the Scorpions and the previous head of the NPA were playing an extremely partisan role in trying to influence the politics in the ANC as to who would be the next president”.
READ: Malunga’s Public Protector candidacy in doubt over security clearance
The evidence, recorded on the so-called spy tapes, would have emerged, he contended, and the NPA would have found itself in court defending political meddling.
“We would have to go to court and say actually it is not so bad that the NPA played politics.”
Hofmeyr was further pressed on the case by the Democratic Alliance’s Glynnis Breytenbach, and refuted her suggestion that he was the architect of the decision.
Initially, he said, he was the one who felt strongly that the charges should be dropped but in the end it was taken by consensus.
In April, the North Gauteng High Court rejected the reasons for the withdrawal, ruling that the decision was irrational and Zuma should face the charges.
The NPA is now seeking to appeal the ruling.
READ: NPA takes spy tapes case to Constitutional Court
“We all knew the decision would be litigated against and I think it is right that the court should take the final decision. History will judge us one way or another.
“For my part I certainly thought it was important to try and retrieve the integrity of the NPA,” Hofmeyr said.
Hofmeyr is seen as having been sidelined by the new leadership of the NPA and conceded to the parliamentary committee interviewing 14 shortlisted candidates that he was frustrated in his current position as head of the authority’s legal affairs department.
“I can’t say it is job that makes me jump out of bed in the morning,” he smiled.
Questioned about his political loyalties, the former political prisoner and ANC MP said he let his membership of the ruling party lapse around 2001 when he joined the prosecuting authority though be remained broadly loyal to its ideology.
“I realised it would be very difficult for me to remain a member of the ANC.”