Batohi wants to repair NPA's 'massive credibility challenges'

The National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi. (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24)
The National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi. (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24)

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi wants to repair the "massive credibility challenges" at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Batohi presented a frank assessment of the NPA to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Tuesday afternoon.

She said it was publicly known that the NPA had a "massive credibility challenge", adding she would not dwell on it.

Batohi said the NPA was "seriously divided", albeit there being many committed, hardworking prosecutors.

Over the past three years, there was a freeze on the appointment of new prosecutors, which meant that more than 600 prosecutors that would have been appointed in this period, have not been. And this had implications on the authority's service.

"It has impacted on the morale of prosecutors," she said. "I think what has happened at the NPA in the recent past has weakened the values and identity of prosecutors."

Batohi added she had seen an improvement in the months since she had joined the organisation. She assumed office on February 1.

She said there was "massive, almost endemic corruption" plaguing the country. 

Turning to the investigative directorate at the NPA that will investigate state capture cases that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in his State of the Nation Address in February, Batohi said: "As you know, there is a massive amount of corruption. I should say from the outset, the directorate is not going to be a panacea for corruption."

She added the police and Hawks also have a large role to play.

Batohi said the NPA, at this time, needed to prioritise what cases they would follow, and the directorate was a short-term intervention.

"It's a response to a crisis we're facing."

She said a long-term response also needed to be established, adding that about 30 prosecutors have indicated that they were willing to work in the directorate.

"That's really not a lot."

She said they would need an external council.

Batohi added that one third of the country's gross domestic product had been stolen through corruption.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said the R37m procured for the directorate, which Justice Minister Ronald Lamola announced last week, was "simply not enough and completely inadequate" given the task ahead for the directorate.

The directorate's head, Hermione Cronjé, when she heard the complaints about the funding, responded: "Money for what?"

Cronjé said the directorate first needed to understand why it had found itself in the situation it was in and why there were no prosecutions while there was so much information in the public domain.

"We need to clean up our own house," she added.

Cronjé said money would not be the solution to its problems, which ran much deeper.

"The money is always a problem, also at similar bodies in other countries. There is always too little money and too much work.

"We are never going to be able to prosecute everybody involved in state capture. It's not going to happen in my lifetime."

Batohi said she was "acutely aware" of rogue elements - as Breytenbach puts it - at the NPA.

"I would simply wish to say it is difficult to work in an organisation when you don't know who to trust."

She said she needed a team around her whom she could trust completely, adding she expected to face more attacks as the authority became more effective.

"Have I experienced any political pressure to date? No. I hope it continues for the rest of my term."  

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