NPA boss Shamila Batohi to review all high-profile cases

National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Picture: ALON SKUY
National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Picture: ALON SKUY

National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi says she is under no illusion that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will come under attack as it gears up to take on those who benefited from looting the state.

Batohi addressed the media on Friday almost four months since she took up the reins at the NPA, an institution which was for more than a decade seen as being politically abused and riven with factionalism.

“We are going to be accused of pursuing persons for political and other motives. And we expect that we will personally be attacked, as well for various reasons. And we hope that when that will happen … that civil society and those that want to fight the good fight will be behind us,” Batohi said.

“It is all about solving the massive corruption problem we have in SA,” Batohi said.

She said a number of priorities were identified in her first few months as top prosecutor. These included addressing the NPA’s leadership crisis, getting increased funding for the NPA, reviewing high-profile cases and the NPA’s structure to improve effectiveness.

She said the model should be one that decentralised powers  and a small, specialised and highly skilled capacity in the NPA’s national office to actively give support to prosecutors in the different regions.

This would enhance the independence of the directors of public prosecutions all over the country. She said that in the past too much of the decision-making came from the national office, which “created part of the problem”. She said the National Prosecuting Authority Act was clear that directors of public prosecutions make decisions to prosecute or not, and not the national director of public prosecutions.

The decision to drop graft charges against Mdluli and to institute racketeering charges against Booysen were at the heart of an inquiry into the fitness to hold office of former senior NPA officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi

Batohi confirmed that the controversial prosecutorial decisions under review included those involving former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen.

The decision to drop graft charges against Mdluli and to institute racketeering charges against Booysen were at the heart of an inquiry into the fitness to hold office of former senior NPA officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi. Both were fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa after they were found not to be fit to hold office by the inquiry. Parliament still has to either confirm Ramaphosa’s decision to fire the pair, or return them to their offices.

Batohi was flanked by advocate Hermione Cronje who will lead the NPA’s new investigating directorate tasked with probing complex corruption cases and those which emanate from the different commissions of inquiry into state capture, the SA Revenue Service and the Public Investment Corporation.

The investigating directorate will have three initial workstreams which will tackle issues such as corruption in the security sector, which includes the criminal justice system, corruption in state-owned enterprises and other high-level public and private-sector corruption. The directorate plans to go after those who benefited from the looting the state and not just the foot soldiers of corruption.

Both Batohi and Cronje emphasised that they were aware of the hunger for prosecutions in SA, but that the NPA had to ensure that the cases were not rushed and that it had solid cases to prosecute.

‘“All I can say to everyone from the president downwards, if we get evidence you will be prosecuted,” Batohi warned.

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