Johannesburg - While news of state advocate Gerrie Nel's resignation from the National Prosecuting Authority, after 35 years of service, was still sinking in on Tuesday, the institution wished him well with his future endeavours.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku confirmed to News24 that Nel had tendered his resignation on Monday to the director of public prosecutions in Pretoria, Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi, "citing other interests outside the NPA".
"So, as the institution, we wished him well in his future endeavours, we wished him all the best.”
Mfaku described Nel as a hardworking professional who had left his mark during his time with the NPA.
"He actually inculcated a culture of dedication, professionalism and hard work within the institution."
According to Mfaku, Nel epitomised what it meant to be a highly prepared lawyer.
"There is no substitute for preparation in the legal arena; he was always prepared, highly prepared. So he inculcated that culture to the people that he mentored. Now it is an NPA culture."
Mentored many prosecutors
Mfaku said that culture would continue through the prosecutors and senior advocates who Nel had mentored.
This meant that high profile cases that Nel had led would be in good hands, Mfaku said.
"If you noticed, as an institution, we think ahead. We always have three advocates to ensure continuity.
"Those people have got intrinsic knowledge of all those matters, they were involved. Now they will continue with the matters and they will deliver justice to the people of this country. That is our mandate," Mfaku said.
He stressed that the NPA was not short of individuals who had the capacity and depth to handle any matters that came their way.
"We have highly experienced prosecutors. Gerrie Nel served at different levels in the institution; he was once the head of the Scorpions and led multitudes of prosecutors who he mentored and imparted his extensive prosecutorial experience. Lots of them are still advocates; they are now experts within this criminal arena, so we are not paralysed," Mfaku said.
News24 understands that Nel will be joining civil rights organisation AfriForum, to head up their new private prosecuting unit. It was believed that AfriForum would make an official announcement on Wednesday morning.
Neither AfriForum nor Nel confirmed or denied this, however, it is believed that this is a move by the organisation to strengthen its anti-corruption unit. AfriForum enlisted the services of private investigator Paul O'Sullivan in October last year to conduct forensic investigations for them.
During the press briefing at the time, AfriForum’s CEO Kallie Kriel said the unit had been necessitated by the fact that "corruption had spread like a cancer in Jacob Zuma’s government and was quickly bringing the country to its knees".
Kriel also said the situation was made worse by the fact that the criminal justice system was being infiltrated by criminals. He believed the system was "subservient to greedy politicians who only wanted to enrich themselves".
AfriForum’s next step in fighting corruption was establishing the private prosecuting unit "to prosecute corrupt officials who are being protected by the NPA itself", he said.
Nel is the former head of the now defunct Scorpions in Gauteng. He led the Scorpions’ Operation Bad Guys investigation into then police commissioner Jackie Selebi and the late mining magnate Brett Kebble. He received an international prosecutors’ award for his successful prosecution of Selebi - who had also headed Interpol - on charges of corruption.
The 56-year-old was the chief prosecutor in the State’s murder case against former Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal changed Pistorius’s culpable homicide conviction to murder.
In 2008, Nel was arrested on trumped-up fraud charges while pursuing Selebi. It later emerged that suspended deputy NPA head, Nomgcobo Jiba, had been instrumental in securing an 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.
Nhantsi, a former lawyer and Scorpions investigator, was jailed for stealing money from his law firm’s trust account. President Jacob Zuma later expunged Nhantsi’s criminal record.
Nicknamed the "bulldog" prosecutor, Nel is a former provincial wrestler who teaches the sport to schoolchildren.