Advocate Hermione Cronje – head of the corruption-busting Investigating Directorate (ID) – has asked to prematurely step down from her position, prosecutions boss Shamila Batohi has confirmed.
Batohi informed National Prosecuting Authority staff of Cronje's request to vacate office in an email sent out on Thursday – and said she would formally recommend to President Cyril Ramaphosa that he accept Cronje's resignation, effective from 1 March 2022.
"This will enable a swift and responsible transition, which will ensure that the ID's work continues uninterrupted," Batohi said.
"Advocate Cronje has indicated the reasons for her decision and I fully understand."
Cronje did not respond to requests for comment.
In response to queries from News24, NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga stressed that Cronje's departure from the prosecuting authority – prior to her term coming to an end – should not be viewed as a "crisis" for the prosecuting authority.
That view was echoed by Batohi, in her statement to NPA staff.
"Our priority is to ensure continuity for the ID. Deputy [National Director of Public Prosecutions], advocate Rabaji-Rasethaba will support advocate Cronje in this transition period, during which time the new head will be recruited," she said.
Cronje was the first person to lead the Investigating Directorate, which was established by Ramaphosa in April 2019 "as an instrument in the fight against corruption".
It is focused on the prosecution of so-called state capture crime.
Batohi stated in her email to NPA staff:
Batohi said Cronje's "commitment to justice and to holding those responsible for corruption to account has always been clear".
"Indeed, it is something that brought us together and will continue to be a commitment that we will always share," she said.
"We thank advocate Cronje for her hard work, commitment and sacrifices made in setting up and positioning the ID to bring to justice those most responsible for corruption in our country. Advocate Cronje has expressed her gratitude at having been given the opportunity to contribute in this undertaking.
"I have no doubt that she will continue the fight against impunity for corruption. Although we still have important work to do in the transition phase, and the president's decision is awaited, on behalf of the leadership of the NPA, I wish advocate Cronje every success in her career moving forward."
This is a developing story.