President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has told the Constitutional Court that he will appoint a national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) head by the end of August.

The position has been vacant for nine months and is being filled by an acting appointment Nomgcobo Jiba. The position has been at the centre of much political wrangling and litigation with accusations of political interference levelled at both President Jacob Zuma and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Zuma on Wednesday submitted a replying affidavit to an urgent appeal made by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, which sought to compel him to make a permanent appointment. The council said that it was Mr Zuma’s constitutional obligation to make such an appointment. It also said that a permanent appointment — which can only be removed by Parliament — enjoys greater structural independence than an acting authority.

In his affidavit, Mr Zuma said: "Unless some unforeseen event occurs, I will appoint a permanent NDPP by the end of August 2013, if not sooner. I give such undertaking to this Court in recognition of the Presidential obligations under the Constitution".

Mr Zuma said that he agreed with the arguments put forward by the council. In previous litigation, Mr Zuma has made use of the same argument to persuade a court that a permanent appointment was preferable to an acting one.

It is widely believed that if Ms Jiba was to be appointed her suitability would be challenged in the courts. She was previously suspended from the national prosecuting authority and then reinstated without the conclusion of her disciplinary hearing.

In February, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said Mr Zuma would announce the new prosecutions head within a month. Subsequent press reports suggested that Pinetown magistrate Stanley Gumede had been identified for the position.

Mr Gumede confirmed he had been approached. Shortly afterwards, it emerged that Mr Gumede was the focus of misconduct charges by the Magistrate’s Commission. These proceedings have not yet been completed.

In his affidavit to the court on Wednesday, Mr Zuma said that he had been considering various candidates for the position.

There has also been speculation that Mr Zuma’s delay in making an appointment is linked to the possibility that a new national director of public prosecutions would reinstate corruption charges against him. The charges were withdrawn by a former acting national director Mokotedi Mpshe on the grounds that tape recordings of conversations by high ranking prosecuting officials revealed a political conspiracy to target Mr Zuma.