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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 15:32 GMT
Profile: South Africa's crime-buster
By Carolyn Dempster
BBC, Johannesburg

As South Africa's top crime-buster, prepared to take on the heavyweights of the ruling African National Congress, Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka is now a household name.

Director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka
Ngcuka has denied being an apartheid spy
And yet in 1994, he did not even feature in the Who's Who of South African politics.

Because of his high-profile investigation into Deputy President Jacob Zuma on allegations of corruption linked to the government's multi-million dollar arms procurement deal, Mr Ngcuka came under fire from senior ANC members.

Now he is the subject of a judicial commission of inquiry.

His rise to prominence says a lot about the quiet lawyer who rose from being a "party hack" to an extremely effective National Director of Public Prosecutions.

Jailed

As Mr Ngcuka sat listening to proceedings at the Hefer Commission of Inquiry, a judicial probe set up to determine whether or not he was an apartheid spy, he looked relaxed and unperturbed - not at all like a hapless victim caught up in a political maelstrom.

After all, he has already faced down some pretty formidable opponents, like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the ANC's former chief whip Tony Yengeni - and beaten them hands down in court.

Hefer Commission of Inquiry
Ngcuka appeared relaxed during the Hefer commission
Mr Ngcuka, who is now 50, began his political life as a member of the anti-apartheid movement, the United Democratic Front.

As a lawyer he took up cudgels on behalf of political activists, and then, in the early 1980s was jailed for three years for refusing to testify against comrades charged with high treason by the apartheid state.

After the transition to democracy in 1994, Mr Ngcuka became a member of parliament, then deputy chair of the second house of parliament, the National Council of Provinces.

He also built a strong reputation as one of the team drafting the new constitution, considered one of the finest in the world.

When, in 1998, he was appointed as the nation's first National Director of Public Prosecutions, a sort of super attorney general, there was an outcry from opposition parties who said he was "knee deep" in politics.

Today, those same opposition politicians are praising his independence of mind and determination to stamp out crime and corruption.

'Dirty tricks'

Mr Ngcuka resigned his ANC party membership to take up his post and rapidly began to prove his mettle with a new approach to crime-fighting in South Africa.

He pioneered a crime-busting strategy based on a combination of intelligence, investigation and prosecution to remove the kingpins of crime from society.

South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma (l) with President Thabo Mbeki
Some say the inquiry and the allegations are about whether Zuma (l) should succeed Mbeki (r)
South Africa's elite investigative unit, the Scorpions, modelled on the FBI, was formed by his department and has been singularly successful in securing convictions against some of South Africa's most notorious warlords, criminals, and corrupt politicians.

Mr Ngcuka is used to coming under attack, but he unleashed a veritable war within the African National Congress when he pronounced that there was enough prima facie evidence to pursue a case against Deputy President Jacob Zuma in connection with allegations of bribery linked to the government's arms procurement deal, but not enough evidence to secure a conviction in court.

Mr Zuma hit back and so did other ANC stalwarts, labelling the investigation part of a "dirty tricks campaign" driven by sinister motives.

Mr Ngcuka was accused, among other things, of fathering a child with a teenager, using his position to improperly acquire a luxury car, and then, of being an apartheid spy.

He has consistently denied all the allegations.

His wife, the powerful Minister of Minerals and Energy, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has rallied to his defence, saying that she and her husband have more important work to do, serving the people of South Africa, rather than wasting time on mudslinging with comrades.




SEE ALSO:
Zuma resignation calls rejected
18 Sep 03  |  Africa
Case dropped against SA's Zuma
23 Aug 03  |  Africa
SA arms probe 'despicable'
28 Jul 03  |  Africa
Profile: Jacob Zuma
17 Jun 99  |  Africa
Jail term for ANC man
19 Mar 03  |  Africa


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