Ramaphosa on the ball about NDPP

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has displayed political maturity by appointing a panel of experts to help him choose the country's next national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).

Since the position was introduced before the turn of the century to replace the office of the attorney-general, it has been fraught with trouble. From Bulelani Ngcuka to Shaun Abrahams, no NDPP has finished their term in office.

Most fell victim to the never-ending political warfare emanating from the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to prosecute Jacob Zuma for corruption.

But at the heart of all the turmoil is the manner in which the NDPP is appointed. Constitutional bodies that are supposed to be independent of the executive and follow fairly robust processes to appoint their office holders. The NDPP is solely appointed by the president without any expectation that he consults with anyone.

This has consequences of an incumbent NDPP seeing his job as being dependent on the head of state, even though the institution he heads is supposed to be independent.

It is a flaw that needs to be corrected. It can't be right that candidate judges have to go through a rigorous process at the Judicial Services Commission, and yet the same is not expected for the appointment of the equally important post of NDPP.

Ever since the Constitutional Court ruled Abrahams should vacate the NDPP's office, Ramaphosa has been under pressure to ensure the next NDPP is appointed in an inclusive manner.

He has responded positively, and for that he be should be commended. He could have hidden behind the fact that legislation, as it exists, gives him the sole prerogative as president to appoint the NDPP. But his decision to appoint the panel is an acknowledgement the current practice needs to be reformed.

We can only hope the advisory panel he has appointed, dominated by representatives of the legal profession, will provide a list of credible names to rescue the NPA from its ongoing crisis.

One thing is certain, with the professional bodies involved, the president would not end up with only ruling party hacks to choose from.

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