A 2013 decision to lay crimen injuria charges against a Durban judge only to withdraw them a year later and be sued for R900 000 hung over KwaZulu-Natal's head of prosecutions Moipone Noko like a dark cloud on Thursday as she faced tough questions from a panel of interviewers looking for a new National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head.Noko's decision to withdraw a case which resulted in now retired KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Chiman Patel being awarded R900 000 in damages in a decision against her as well as reasons why she thought she could handle the position of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) were a central part of the line of questioning. Interviews are currently underway at the Union Buildings, with 11 candidates being canvassed by a panel headed by Energy Minister Jeff Radebe. Noko was the third person to be interviewed on Thursday.The provincial director of public prosecutions was grilled over her handling of the case involving Patel who was awarded damages in his claim against Noko for malicious prosecution and reputational damage. Patel sued Noko and the NDPP after being charged with crimen injuria relating to an incident in his chambers with a stationery clerk in 2013.News24 previously reported that Patel was summoned to appear in court a year later, however, when the trial was due to start, the charge was withdrawn without explanation.'Dubious' decision"You took a decision to charge the judge but when the case was eventually taken to court, you were nowhere to be found."Why do you say you can be appointed as NDPP if you can't take decisions?" attorney Mvuzo Notyesi asked Noko during her interview before accusing her of embarrassing the retired judge through her "dubious" decision-making.He said he hoped that one day Noko would apologise to Patel for her actions.Noko defended herself, saying she had made the decision to charge him because there was a case to answer at the time."I made the decision alone and others concurred with my decision. It is not as if in the beginning there was no case. There was a case," she said."I made the decision and when the matter went to court it was withdrawn because there were reasons to withdraw."READ: Questions raised over whether Jaap Cilliers should have recused himself from NDPP interviewAnother panellist, advocate Jaap Cilliers, SC, also asked Noko if she thought it would be proper for her name to be forwarded to the president for appointment "under these controversial circumstances". "Yes," she said. A 'controversial' figureNoko was viewed by some as an ally of former president Jacob Zuma and now suspended deputy prosecutions boss Nomgcobo Jiba. In his ruling in the Patel matter, Gauteng Judge Aubrey Ledwaba was critical of Noko, saying that she was not executing the duties expected of a director of public prosecutions. "She gave long-winded and argumentative answers when she testified," the judge said.He found that Noko, "who was intent on seeing the matter being heard in a criminal court", the national director, and the prosecutor handling the case had all acted with an intention to injure Patel. Noko also addressed the issue of being called a "controversial" figure in the media. "Being portrayed as controversial is not right. It is unfair," she said.Professionalism, hard workThe panel interviewed three other candidates on Thursday including Western Cape director of public prosecutions Rodney de Kock, advocate Naome Manaka and advocate Andrea Johnson.During his interview De Kock spoke about leading by example and the importance of the NPA and its values."Professionalism is something very close to my heart, it's how we go around doing our business," De Kock said."My approach is that all those people we lead in our institution, we lead as a collective. I empower everybody, so when I'm not there, anyone can step onto the bridge."Manaka told the panel that it was not easy for her to accept the nomination for the position, because she was "running a very successful practice"."I, however, decided to accept because I have grown tired of complaining from the outside, which is futile," she said. She said as the NPA head one needed to appreciate and reward good work, adding that poor performance needs to be "punished". Manaka also told the panel that good values in the office of the NPA were affected by corruption.