NPA damaging itself by withholding senior status for white advocates

2014-05-19 00:00

STATE advocates like Advocate Gerrie Nel have not in the past five years been recommended for promotion to senior counsel status (SC) by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The NPA stopped these recommendations after advocate Mokotedi Mpshe questioned the race and sex of candidates whose names were given to the Justice minister, while he was the acting head of the NPA in 2008.

The minister had to ratify the nominations and send them to the president. A letter sent to sister paper Beeld states that Mpshe wanted the SC nominations to meet certain race and sex requirements.

Senior status is normally awarded to experienced advocates who have practised for between 10 and 20 years and who are considered capable by their colleagues, magistrates and judges.

Advocate Billy Downer SC, the prosecutor in the corruption case against President Jacob Zuma and who also prosecuted Zuma’s personal financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was one of the last state advocates to awarded senior status.

State advocates agree that several of their colleagues who deserve senior status include Nel, Advocate Dries van Rensburg, who prosecuted the Boere­mag members, Advocate Jan Ferreira, who charged Winnie Madikizela-Mandela with theft and fraud, Advocate George Baloyi, who prosecuted Eugene Terre’ Blanche’s murderers, and advocates Arno Rossouw and Dawid Broughton, who prosecuted in the Krion pyramid scheme. Their names are however not give to the Justice minister by the NPA. State advocates say that as a result, a very good advocate like Nel, who does not have to stand back for Barry Roux SC, his opponent in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, is seen as inferior.

In the private sector, SC status means higher fees, but this does not apply for state advocates.

“The NPA is damaging its own credibility because the perception is that only second-rate advocates work for the state,” a state advocate told Beeld.

Advocate Elivera du Plooy, chairperson of the Association of State Advocates, said the association had indicated to Mxolisi Nxasana, the new head of the NPA, that the nominations for senior status was one of the issues that had to get attention. The association had already prepared a proposal for Nxasana.

Du Plooy said not recognising senior counsel status among state advocates resulted in them not enjoying the same level of respect as their equals in the private sector.

The NPA did not react to inquiries.

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