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Over three days of gruelling interviews of candidates to run the NPA, the process seemed more like an inquiry into the state of the prosecuting authority than an interview for a director, writes Mandy Wiener.
When Simphiwe Mlotshwa held up a pile of battered
black and red Croxley notebooks with yellow labels sticking out during his
interview for the position of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP)
on Friday, it was clear he had come to drop files.
The notebooks, he revealed ominously, contained all
the records of his term in office. During his interview for the position of national
director of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), he detailed how he came
under immense political pressure.
The former KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions
explained how he was summoned to the NPA headquarters where then acting NDPP
Nomgcobo Jiba and special director Lawrence Mrwebi attempted to force him to
withdraw charges against political heavyweights in the so-called 'Amigos' case.
Mlotshwa spoke about how for a period he had bodyguards and received
threatening phone calls.
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Over three days of gruelling interviews of
candidates to run the prosecuting authority this week, the process seemed more
like an inquiry into the state of the NPA than an interview for a director. The
panel asked questions about factions, infighting, paralysing disfunction,
political interference and pressure from superiors. They were desperate for
insight into the internal machinations of a crucial organisation that, by all
accounts, has been captured over the past few years.
Some candidates obfuscated, others were euphemistic
or diplomatic about events. But many were downright blatant and honest about
the sheer scale of the shenanigans that have been underway at the VGM building
in Silverton, the NPA's headquarters.
During his interview, which was more like testimony
at an inquiry, Mlotshwa remarked that he believed that "sunshine is the
greatest disinfectant". This is precisely what the panel seemed intent on
achieving – a laying bare for all to see, a kind of cathartic TRC of the NPA
for all those who were ostracised.
It was the first real opportunity for this to happen
after multiple court cases maligned the leadership of the NPA and called into
question their integrity and credibility. It was a pulling back of the dressing
to reveal the festering wound within and the hope may have been that with it
all out in the open, the process would serve as a balm and at least allow the
incoming NDPP an opportunity to correct it all.
Advocate Andrea Johnson gave a vivid description of just
how bad things have been at the NPA. "Even if you appoint the pope as the
NDPP, it won't be enough. That office will chew the pope up and spit him out
alive, that's how bad the situation is," she told the panel. "We didn't
need other people to interfere… our management did it very nicely," she
Shamila Batohi described the prosecuting authority as "a mess",
saying that "the house is on fire".
Advocate Andrew Chauke argued that the factionalism
he was asked of was only evident at the top echelons of the NPA. "Those
factions, as I see them, are between the deputy national directors of public
prosecutions. They don't see things the same. There are those who are seen to
be on this side and those who are seen to be on this other side," he said.
It seemed almost appropriate that Silas
Ramaite, currently acting as NDPP and one of the most senior members of the NPA
leadership during the period of instability, was oblivious to any of this and
said there was no crisis. "I am not
personally aware of any interference," he told the panel. The only periods
of instability there had been were when previous NDPPs had left the
it was the specifics from Mlotshwa that the panel was after. The practical
example of how a prosecutor had been interfered with in a high profile,
politically sensitive case. They got that when he raised his Croxley notebooks
and uttered the names of Jiba, Mrwebi, Ramaite and Moipone Noko.
this week's 'testimony' is anything to go by, there must be countless other
prosecutors like Mlotshwa who have come under immense pressure for political
reasons. Each of them should have an opportunity to take the country into their
confidence and share their personal ordeals.
the cameras rolling, they should each be offered the opportunity to let us see
into their own notebooks and the records they kept of how they were bullied and
interfered with as the doctrine of prosecutorial independence was compromised.
As we saw this week, sunshine is after all the best antiseptic.
- Wiener is a specialist reporter for News24.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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