Strip-club king vs Mr Righteous: Why Andrew Phillips is dead set against Hofmeyr

Having taken on errant big fish and small fry in the state sector alike, Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s spell as the public protector significantly boosted public faith in this chapter nine institution. While there are no new rules for the appointment of her successor, there has been greater public scrutiny of the process and nominees.
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Interviews with 14 short-listed candidates will be televised to provide South Africans with insight into the motivation for those ultimately recommended to President Jacob Zuma for a final decision.

Members of the public had until July 8 to submit objections to any particular nominee and Parliament received about 100 of those in respect of the initial list of candidates. Now the parliamentary ad-hoc committee made up of various political parties, as required in law, will conduct the interviews scheduled to start on August 11.

Objection to Willie Hofmeyr’s nomination
A detailed objection to the nomination of highly regarded deputy national director of public prosecutions, Willie Hofmeyr, is among those handed in.

The gist of the complaint relates to his tenure as head of the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and his conduct in the unsuccessful prosecution of businessman Andrew Phillips – a strip-club owner who was arrested for profiteering from prostitution.

Phillips, who was acquitted of all charges after a protracted legal battle, now contends that Hofmeyr’s conduct during the case was highly questionable and that this should weigh heavily against him in the bid to have him appointed as the country’s next public protector.

Who is Andrew Phillips?
It is said that Andrew Phillips is nothing like the late “king of sleaze”, Lolly Jackson.

Phillips holds an MBA and those who have been to his gentlemen’s clubs, The Ranch and Titty Twister, say they were pristine, right down to regularly dusted labels on the Moët & Chandon.

His battles with the National Prosecuting Authority date back 2000 when law enforcement officers pounced on his business premises for “commando-style raids”.

It ended in 2012 when the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered a stay of prosecution, preventing him from being prosecuted again for matters involving The Ranch or Titty Twister.

These, the state had previously seized as the alleged proceeds of crime as it claimed both were brothels run by Phillips who was making millions off prostitution.

Phillips always denied that sex was for sale at his businesses and at one stage told the
Mail & Guardian that only “above-board undressing” took place there.

He was acquitted of all charges in 2008 but the NPA took the case to the appeal court where it lost.

The case against him, Phillips said, was always designed to boost the coffers of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, then headed by Willie Hofmeyr.

Despite scoring a victory in 2012 – as well as a harsh judgment against the NPA – he has refused to take possession of his various properties and assets because they had fallen into disrepair while under attachment order.

He insists they be restored to the condition in which they had been at the time when they were seized. Phillips has since launched a civil claim for nearly R900-million in damages from the state.

Who is Willie Hofmeyr?

Once banned, detained and placed under house arrest by the apartheid government, Willie Hofmeyr today has “top secret clearance” as one of the most senior people in the country’s justice sector.

He is currently one of four deputy national directors of public prosecutions, heading up the NPA’s legal affairs division – he was moved there last August after 16 years at the helm of the highly successful Asset Forfeiture Unit .

Regarded as a top international expert in asset forfeiture, Hofmeyr was appointed as the head of the AFU in 1999 by the late Nelson Mandela.

In addition to focusing on corruption, under him, South Africa’s AFU developed a significant track record in combating serious economic and drug-related crimes as well as emerging crimes like copper and rhino horn theft.

He was a Member of Parliament between 1994 and 1999, serving as a member of the Constitutional Assembly that was responsible for drafting the country’s Constitution.

Hofmeyr is generally regarded as a straight arrow, something which has irked his foes in both politics and the courtroom almost as much as it has, at times, his friends.

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