Advocate Shamila Batohi after being named as the new head of the National Prosecuting Authority at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA
At first glance, advocate Shamila Batohi might come across as delicately petite, almost fragile, but don’t be fooled - appearances can be terribly deceptive.

Having met the new National Director of Public Prosecutions socially on several occasions, I can assure you the lady’s no pushover - she’s a smart cookie who gives as good as she gets.

If you have any doubts, ask those legal eagles who faced up to her bouncers at the King Commission probing match-fixing allegations against former Proteas cricket captain Hansie Cronje in 2000.

But, I’ll be the first to admit, a game of bat, ball and bails is far less challenging than having to survive in an NPA snake pit where none of her predecessors have managed to serve a full term because of internal and external political turbulence.

I’m certainly not qualified to offer Shamila any professional advice about her new job, but having accumulated many career miles over many decades, I’ll pass on a few tips based my own personal experiences.

It’s all quite heady immediately after the official announcement, Shamila, when the president, Cabinet ministers, professional colleagues and friends flock around and you’re at the centre of an orgy of congratulations and back-slapping.

Later, however, the euphoria will subside and reality will set in - you’re in the hot seat. The plane’s in flight and you’re the pilot.

A whole gamut of daunting challenges lie ahead.

After cosying up to the president and promising your undying loyalty to the country and your commitment to convict the crooks, your immediate task is building the confidence of the staff around you.

After all, you’ll want them working with and not against you, so I’m encouraged that you’ve assured all prosecutors in the NPA of your full support - as long as they discharge their duties and responsibilities with integrity.

Don’t for a moment under-estimate the enormousness of your task. There are people out there who would like to see you fail. These are the scumbags who have corrupted our institutions and betrayed the values of our constitution.

Outside the walls of the NPA, you’ll probably hear many dogs barking. Don’t be put off. They are barking out of fear that you will do your job properly and put them behind bars.

I’m encouraged President Ramaphosa thinks you’re the best person to turn the NPA around. But to enable you and your team to get the job done, you’re going to need more than expressions of support.

For you to act with integrity and without fear or favour to address the paralysis and deficiencies in the NPA, you are going to need the time and space to strategise a new vision.

You will need the freedom to build a team of highly qualified and capable support staff and sufficient financial resources to win the war against corruption and crime.

Give it your best shot, Shamila. The vast majority of democracy-loving South Africans are behind you.