Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA
Port Elizabeth - Celebrated former public prosecutor and now head of rights group AfriForum's private prosecution unit, Advocate Gerrie Nel on Tuesday said the unit had identified its first four cases.  

Furthermore, Nel pointed to the recent ruling made in the North Gauteng High Court where President Jacob Zuma was ordered to explain the reasons behind his recent cabinet reshuffle, saying he believed this would work in his favour as far as private prosecutions was concerned. 

Speaking at a coffee morning, hosted by BLC attorneys in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, Nel who has been in the legal game for 35 years, spoke passionately about being active in tackling corruption. 

The unit has made history as a first for the South African law fraternity. Not a well-known concept locally, but private prosecution can get to court on the basis of a nolle prosequi certificate - a declaration made by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) deciding not to prosecute a matter. 

The same principles of law and procedures are applied, but a private person prosecutes the matter and not the state. According to Nel, in order to obtain a nolle prosequi certificate, it must be proved that a person was prejudiced by a decision taken by the NPA not to prosecute. Looking at a recent judgment made in the North Gauteng High Court around the much criticised cabinet reshuffle, Nel said that the country was living through exciting times. 

"Would anybody sitting here 10 years ago would have thought that the court, Judge [Bashier] Vally, would force the President to give reasons for his cabinet reshuffle, it's amazing. The court forcing the President to give reasons for his decision works one hundred percent for me because now I can approach the NPA and say give me reasons why you refuse to prosecute," Nel said.  

Head of AfriForum's private prosecution unit, Advocate Gerrie Nel, speaks at a coffee morning in Port Elizabeth. Video: Raahil Sain/ANA

Known as a pit bull in the courtroom, the former state prosecutor said that he had decided to study law because he absolutely hated bullies for as long as he could remember. 

"I decided to study law because I absolutely hate bullies, bullies in the wide sense of the word, anyone with power that tries to push you around," Nel told his audience. 

For him the most important pillar is that there should be no "selective prosecution" in the criminal justice system. 

"I think we all agree that the purpose of law is to ensure justice is done. For justice to be done we should all be equal before the law, that must be the most basic principle of the law, it's equality before the law," said Nel.  

Nel said that the unit would love to deal with corruption matters at a local level as it affected people directly, having an impact on service delivery.

"Let me make it clear because we are against selective prosecutions, we cannot be selective ourselves and we won't be selective in the matters we get, but we can't do it all. We are a very small unit and I prefer to work in small units."  

Nel added that the unit which was launched earlier in February had already been inundated with volumes of cases. However, he would not specify the first four cases the unit was working on.

African News Agency