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‘I wish her well’: Shaun Abrahams has his say on Shamila Batohi

Shaun Abrahams has wished his successor, Shamila Batohi, well as she takes up the position of national director of public prosecutions.
Shaun Abrahams has wished his successor, Shamila Batohi, well as she takes up the position of national director of public prosecutions.

Shaun Abrahams, the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, has wished his successor, Shamila Batohi, well.

Speaking to this publication via telephone from overseas moments after Batohi's appointment was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, Abrahams said he had worked with Batohi when she was in charge of the NPA in KwaZulu-Natal.

"I have worked with Shamila. She headhunted me for a post in Pietermaritzburg while she was the DPP [director of public prosecutions] in KwaZulu-Natal."

Asked if he had any advice for her on how to deal with the challenges that come with the post, Abrahams said he "wishes her well".

Abrahams was removed from his position after the Constitutional Court ruled that his appointment was a consequence of an unconstitutional "abuse of power" by former president Jacob Zuma.

Abrahams was appointed after his predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, was given a multi-million rand golden handshake.

Ramaphosa, in announcing his decision to appoint Batohi, said: "In appointing a new NDPP, we are addressing the state of dysfunctionality and deficiencies in the National Prosecuting Authority identified by the Constitutional Court.

"The national director of public prosecutions occupies a vital position in our democracy and makes an essential contribution in upholding the rule of law."

During her interview for the position last month, Batohi described the NPA as a house on fire and said the NDPP position would be like a shark tank.

Batohi, in accepting her appointment on Tuesday, said at her swearing-in that her only obligation was to serve the country to the best of her ability.

"Each one of us, no matter where we are, must be ready to sacrifice … Our country needs us. This [appointment] is a recognition of the [important] role of women in the pursuit of justice and fair society."

A Durban prosecutor who worked closely with Batohi during her time at the helm of the NPA in KZN said the NPA was in for a major shakeup.

Asking not to be named because she was not authorised to speak to the media, the prosecutor said Batohi was “one tough lady who takes no nonsense”.

"She will give you a chance, but woe betide you if you waste that chance. Shamila is exactly what the NPA and SA needs. She does things by the book and has no hidden agendas. What you see is what you get and she expects absolute loyalty, not only to the NPA but to the people of SA, especially the thousands who are desperately seeking justice."

She said Batohi was not afraid of tackling big cases and would go after whoever had broken the law, regardless of their standing in society.

"She is all for the rights of the downtrodden, the poor and those who have had their rights abused. She hates corruption and abuse of power and will be a breath of fresh in the NPA especially in ensuring these crimes are punished."

Batohi takes up the position after serving as a legal adviser at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. She has also been involved in major criminal cases.

She was evidence leader during the King Commission which investigated the Hansie Cronje match-fixing in cricket, sat on the panel tasked with reviewing criminal charges against disgraced former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi and also headed the directorate of special operations (known as the Scorpions) in KZN.

During her time as head of prosecutions in KZN in the mid-2000s, Batohi headed the NPA's national community prosecuting project. The project was aimed at bringing communities closer to prosecutors and helping them and the police to build cases and ultimately secure justice for victims of crime.

At the time she was in the position she said: "The whole idea is for prosecutors to engage and communicate more broadly with communities.

"In many instances, the community gives the prosecutor information, helping the police to do their job better."

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