Adriaan Basson

Adriaan Basson: Dear Shamila Batohi, the honeymoon is over

2020-02-03 06:00
NPA head Shamila Batohi. (Misheck Makora, Daily Sun)

NPA head Shamila Batohi. (Misheck Makora, Daily Sun)

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Her challenge could not be starker. Failure is not an option. She has been in the position of national director of public prosecutions for a year and Batohi needs to get on with the job, writes Adriaan Basson.

It is a year ago that advocate Shamila Batohi first entered the gates of the “VGM”, the NPA’s head office in Pretoria, as national director of public prosecutions. 

The building is named after Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge, two of the bravest lawyers to have ever walked the corridors of South Africa’s courtrooms. 

Griffiths was arrested and sentenced to Robben Island for being an ANC member while studying law. Victoria, his wife, was a trained nurse before she also qualified as a lawyer and joined her husband’s law firm in Durban.  

The firm was defending victims of apartheid and he became a well-known civil rights lawyer.  

In 1981, Griffiths was assassinated by the apartheid security forces. Victoria took up the cudgels and continued her work as a human rights lawyer and activist.  

A few days after speaking at the funeral of the Cradock Four in 1985, during which she referred to their killing as a "dastardly act of cowardices", Victoria, too, was gunned down.  

The Mxenges were killed by the apartheid state to silence them. Their commitment to the truth, justice and equality had become too much for the authoritarian state. 

When the ANC took power in 1994 and established the NPA to oversee all criminal prosecutions in the country, the government decided to name the authority’s head office after the Mxenges.  

Fast-forward 26 years, and Batohi is the country’s great hope for truth, justice and equality before the law. 

Her challenge could not be starker. Failure is not an option.  

She has been in the position of national director of public prosecutions for a year and Batohi needs to get on with the job. 

Over the past 12 months, we have heard much about the sorry state of affairs at the NPA; how many skilled prosecutors had left under the misrule of Nomgcobo Jiba and Shaun Abrahams; how prosecutors didn’t speak up while the NPA was being captured; of budgets being cut and positions not being filled. 

I’m sure all of that is true and I’m sure Batohi would have been warned of the enormity of the challenge she faced before leaving her position as legal advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  

The time for complaining is over. Batohi needs action and she needs it fast.  

Her valiant efforts to increase the NPA’s budget have paid-off and Batohi now has many more prosecutors than when she started. 

Despite initial hiccups, the Investigative Directorate of advocate Hermione Cronjé is running smoothly and have contracted some of the best legal brains in the country, like Geoff Budlender, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Wim Trengove, to help the NPA draft charge sheets and put together the state capture cases.  

That is all good and well, but we need to see arrest warrants, handcuffs and blue lights. As long as the main culprits of the state capture project walk free – and here I include the likes of Jacob Zuma, Duduzane Zuma, the Guptas, Salim Essa, Brian Molefe, Anoj Singh, Mosebenzi Zwane, Ace Magashule, Faith Muthambi and many others – the fightback against the un-capturing of state institutions will continue unabated.  

One of the biggest weaknesses of her term so far has been Batohi’s perceived isolation from the rest of the NPA. Yes, of course she had to clean up, but there is no way she can do so alone.  

She cannot make those arrests and carry the docket to court. She needs support and her prosecutors (and the Hawks) to rally behind her. 

She now has three vacancies for deputies in her office after the retirement of Willie Hofmeyr and Silas Ramaite, and the removal of Jiba from office. Batohi needs to fill these vacancies as a matter of urgency.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa will formally confirm their appointment, but Batohi allegedly has carte blanche to appoint who she wants to.  

Her honeymoon is over and Batohi needs to start showing results. Forty years later, she must continue the Mxenges’ struggle for truth, justice and equality at the NPA.  

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

Read more on:    npa  |  shamila batohi  |  hermione cronje  |  state capture  |  politics
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