One prosecutor was so stressed that he killed his wife and then himself. He told his sister not to let the NPA or any of its officials attend his funeral
Disgruntled prosecutors in three coastal provinces have challenged the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, Shamila Batohi, to suspend the recruitment process to fill vacant posts because they allege it is racist, nepotistic and does not fulfil transformation objectives.
The prosecutors, who first marched to the NPA’s headquarters in March last year, had followed with several letters to Batohi in which they alleged that black prosecutors were overlooked for promotions and discriminated against.
Operating under the banner of the not-yet registered SA Prosecutors’ Union and calling themselves a Concerned Group of Prosecutors, they claimed that the problems had been continuing for the past 10 years in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
In a letter written to Batohi’s office this past Wednesday, the Concerned Group of Prosecutors said they were disappointed with Batohi’s responses to their problems thus far.
This is because Batohi refused to recognise the body as representatives of the prosecutors in a letter she wrote on December 13.
In it, Batohi said: “My office will investigate every complaint submitted by anyone of the employees of the NPA, especially when it relates to behaviour that will negatively affect the reputation of the NPA.
However, in doing so, I am also still under obligation to comply with all prescripts and legislation. I have noted all your correspondence on behalf of a union. The Labour Relations Act of 1995 defines requirements for a union to be recognised in a sector.
It is with great regret that your organisation is not recognised by the Public Sector Coordinating Bargaining Council to represent employees in the public service. Furthermore, all correspondence by individual employees or a recognised union must be dealt with through the existing process and must be addressed to the director of employee relations.”
The NPA is on a drive to boost the capacity of prosecution services across the country by filling vacant posts and promoting others to senior positions.
The prosecutors, in the letter, expressed concern about the unfairness of the shortlisting process saying it lacked transformation and that there was victimisation of junior prosecutors.
They also noted the “persecution” of black African prosecutors, nepotism within the NPA, as well as racism.
“Black prosecutors are not regarded as professionals and worthy of growth in the NPA as they are not given chances to occupy higher posts and are blocked by the NPA system from earning good salaries like their counterparts,” the letter reads.
In another letter to Batohi in December, prosecutor Gcineka Songwevu – who is also a member of the group – from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape complained about the racism and favouritism, as well as discrimination.
“There is a lack of transformation, which is a cause for concern. We, as black prosecutors, feel that we are being discriminated against by our senior public prosecutor. There is a prosecutor by the name of [name withheld], who happens to be white.
“He is hardly five years in the NPA, and he found us here in Queenstown coming from Cathcart. He arrived in Queenstown in 2014. In 2015 he was made to do the regional court. He has been in the regional court since then.
“Even when there is a shortage in the district court, he [the same white prosecutor] is not told to go and assist as if he is not a district court prosecutor. We were told about rotation, but when [the person] arrived, no other district court prosecutor was given a chance to go to the regional court,” Songwevu wrote.
“The only conclusion that can be drawn here is that our SPP [senior public prosecutor] favoured him [the new prosecutor] because they are both white and every other prosecutor is black, or is there any other explanation to that? To add salt to the already bleeding wound, this very same prosecutor has been allowed to do cases in the Grahamstown High Court, and he continues enjoying that privilege to this moment. This is unfair labour practice in its best,” the letter read.
In another letter sent on December 11 to Batohi, prosecutor Khotso Seitlheko’s complaint involved an alleged incident of nepotism in which a senior prosecutor sat in an interview of the aspirant prosecutors’ programme in the Eastern Cape.
Seitlheko stated that he learnt about the relationship between a candidate and the senior prosecutor a month after the candidate joined the programme.
He had given her a lift and, during a conversation, she informed him that the senior prosecutor concerned was her aunt.
“The prosecutor [name withheld] was part of the interviewing panel. Clearly, [the person] did not disclose this conflict of interest and, as a result, the niece was employed. I must submit that this is one of the reasons the said colleague feels entitled to a status superior to others,” the complaint read.
Seitlheko said he was also privy to an incident of racism when a prosecutor, of Indian descent, allegedly refused to move to a rural KwaZulu-Natal assignment citing religious issues.
In a third letter, the prosecutors blamed the NPA for allegedly frustrating a prosecutor in the Free State to such a degree that he killed his wife and committed suicide last month because of work stress.
Before the incident, it is alleged that the prosecutor had gone to his office, removed his name tags and collected all his personal belongings.
According to prosecutors, Mbuyiselo Mkololo, a prosecutor at the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court, stabbed his wife Lindiwe Handa on December 31.
He also committed suicide.
Before his death, Mkololo gave his sister instructions not to let the NPA and its officials attend his funeral.
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke said Batohi was looking into the complaints made by prosecutors.
Senior journalist | City Press
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