Johannesburg – Before Oscar Pistorius, there was Jackie Selebi, and Brett Kebble.
The prosecutor in all these high profile cases was advocate Gerrie Nel. On Tuesday, news broke of his resignation, ending a 35-year career which had made him a household name.
Nel was a junior prosecutor in the trial of both Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Walus. Both men were convicted for the murder of SACP leader Chris Hani in 1993. Derby-Lewis died in 2016 and Walus was released on parole in March 2016.
Going after the bad guy didn't always come with great rewards. In 2008, Nel was arrested at his Pretoria home in front of his wife and children while investigating former police commissioner Jackie Selebi for corruption. Selebi was jailed for 15 years in 2010. The trumped-up charges against Nel were dropped.
Suspended deputy NPA head, Nomgcobo Jiba, was instrumental in securing the arrest warrant against Nel. In 2011, City Press reported that Jiba’s hostility against Nel was caused by his involvement in a fraud case against her husband, Booker Nhantsi.
Convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti said of Nel in Selebi’s trial: "I don't particularly like Mr Nel, and I say that with respect.”
Nel received an international prosecutors’ award for his successful prosecution of Selebi, who had also headed Interpol. Selebi was granted medical parole and died on January 23 2015, aged 64.
Mining magnate Brett Kebble
Mining magnate Brett Kebble was shot dead in an "assisted suicide" in his car in Johannesburg on September 27 2005. Nel was one of the prosecutors in the trial of Glenn Agliotti, who was arrested in 2006 for killing Kebble. Agliotti was acquitted.
Kebble’s alleged killers - Nigel McGurk, Mikey Schultz and Faizel Smith - got off after entering into plea agreements with the State.
Nel led the successful conviction of former policeman Andre Gouws and former Nigerian Olympic athlete Ambrose Monye for the contract killing of Chanelle Henning. In 2015, they were sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the killing.
In 2016, the State withdrew charges against Henning’s husband Nico, who was accused of murdering and conspiring to murder his wife.
The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius
Nel held South Africa spellbound as chief prosecutor in the State’s murder case against Oscar Pistorius. The "bulldog" prosecutor reduced the former Paralympian to tears while cross-examining him during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Nel challenged Pistorius’s conviction on a charge of culpable homicide in the Supreme Court of Appeal. The court overturned it and convicted Pistorius of murder.
Nel, however, failed in 2016 to secure a lengthy jail term for Pistorius. Judge Thokozile Masipa jailed him for six years in July 2016.