Work cut out for new head of NPA

Shamila Batohi has been named the new head of the NPA.
Shamila Batohi has been named the new head of the NPA.
Image: Masi Losi

Over the years, there were concerns raised about the independence of the national director of public prosecutions, under the administrations of both presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

Questions first came up after the infamous off-the record briefing with editors hosted by then NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka in 2003.

He told the media that he had a "prima facie" corruption case against Zuma but had decided not to prosecute him because he did not believe the National Prosecuting Authority had a winnable case. This was in relation to the multi-million rand arms deal.

Ngcuka later stepped down and was succeeded by Vusi Pikoli who was later fired following his suspension after he disagreed with Mbeki on the prosecution of national police commissioner Jackie Selebi for fraud.

Those were just the two NDPP who served decent terms in office, as not a single one has completed the full 10-year term.

Pikoli's predecessors left one after the other in quick succession. It was either after falling out of favour with the president or through a court ruling.

However, the newly appointed top prosecutor Advocate Shamila Batohi went - for the first time ever - through a transparent process which saw 11 individuals being interviewed for the post.

The process followed to appoint her should, at least on the face of it, prove there is no hidden agenda about this appointment. Batohi made it to the top five with an impressive CV, which includes being a legal adviser at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, since 2009.

She also has worked at the NPA as the director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, which means she understands the organisation well.

During her interview, she described being a prosecutor as "being the voice of the victims in court".

She also said fixing the NPA "required all hands on deck".

When she was announced yesterday, she promised the nation that her leadership will be defined by strong governance principles and independence.

We welcome her appointment as the country's leading prosecutor. We wish her all the best in the task ahead of restoring the NPA's credibility and regaining the trust of South Africans.

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