The National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, says she is determined to restore the dignity and credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) even though it is a massive challenge. Batohi told the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services last week, that the morale of the NPA staff was affected by the freeze on the appointment of more than 600 prosecutors.
Said Batohi: ” What has happened at the NPA in the recent past has weakened the values and identity of prosecutors. As you know, there is a massive amount of corruption. The new directorate, which President Ramaphosa alluded to in his State Of The Nation Address in February, to assist with state capture cases, is not going to be a panacea for corruption. One third of the country’s gross domestic product had been stolen through corruption.”
She added the police and the Hawks also have a large role to play. Batohi said the NPA needs to prioritise what cases they would follow, and that the directorate was a short-term intervention. “It’s a response to a crisis we’re facing.” She said a long-term response also needed to be established, adding that about 30 prosecutors have indicated that they were willing to work in the directorate. “That’s really not a lot,” said Batohi.
DA MP, Glynnis Breytenbach, said the R37m procured for the directorate, which Justice Minister Ronald Lamola recently announced, was “simply not enough and completely inadequate” given the task ahead for the directorate. She said the rogue elements in the NPA made the dispensing of justice difficult.
The directorate’s head, Hermione Cronjé, when she heard the complaints about the funding, responded: “Money for what?”
Cronjé said the directorate first needed to understand why it had found itself in the situation it was in and why there were no prosecutions while there was so much information in the public domain. Cronjé said money would not be the solution to its problems, which ran much deeper. “The money is always a problem, also at similar bodies in other countries. There is always too little money and too much work.
We are never going to be able to prosecute everybody involved in state capture. It’s not going to happen in my lifetime.” Batohi said she was acutely aware of the rogue elements, as Breytenbach put it, at the NPA. “I would simply wish to say it is difficult to work in an organisation when you don’t know who to trust.” She said she needed a team around her whom she could trust completely, adding she expected to face more attacks as the authority became more effective. “Have I experienced any political pressure to date? No. I hope it continues for the rest of my term.”
We need to clean up our own house,” she added.