New NDPP Shamila Batohi. File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA
This week President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Shamila Batohi as the new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).

For years, South Africa has needed an NDPP who will grab the bull by the horns and prosecute without fear or favour.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons with the previous director, Shaun Abrahams, often accused of shielding former President Jacob Zuma, who is now facing a number of corruption charges.

Many have viewed the NPA as being on the brink of collapse, as the institution faces a myriad of challenges such as a backlog in cases that need to be prosecuted as a result of a shortage of staff.

The question now is: who is Botahi and does she have what it takes to clean up the mess at the head of the NPA?

Batohi, who hails from Durban and received her education at former University of Durban Westville and Natal University, is no stranger to leadership in a legal fraternity that is largely male dominated.

Her claim to fame came when she led the King Commission of Inquiry into cricket match-fixing when Hansie Cronjé was the captain of the Proteas.

Her fearlessness, feistiness and no-nonsense approach in upholding the rule of law saw former President Nelson Mandela appoint her to be part of a high-level team that investigated activities related to apartheid-era hit squads, where many who fought against past injustices lost their lives.

In the face of widespread corruption in many facets of government and the private sector, South Africa is at a precipice where the corrupt and the corrupter alike need to be held accountable.

The office of the NPA has seen a sharp decline in public confidence over the years, and the onus is on Batohi to bring peace to the heart and minds of a largely frustrated South African populace where those close to political and economic power continue to run amok. Batohi brings principled leadership and was appointed as the first black female head of the DPP in KZN where she served with distinction.

She has a mammoth task on her hands as she takes over an office that sorely needs to be cleansed from all the ills that have plagued it over the last few years, towards the end of Zuma’s presidency.

In appointing her in her new position, Ramphosa said: “The NDPP in our country occupies a vital position in democracy, and makes an essential contribution in upholding the rule of law and ensuring the integrity of law enforcement.”

Currently, South Africa is grappling with a volume of challenges, where too many politicians who have graced our national discourse are implicated, in one way or the other, of being involved in State Capture as accusations of widespread criminality and finger pointing punctuate the biggest political scandal to rock our nation.

According to Ranmaphosa: “Our country needs an NPA that is above reproach in performance of its mandate. The NDPP must ensure that it exercises its functions without fear, favour or prejudice and must not be beholden to any vested interest in politics or business.”

Her time spent abroad in the ICC can be viewed as a positive factor to ensure that the head of the NPA is someone who will be able to take decisions independently and impartially.

Speaking on her appointment as the new head of the NPA, Batohi said she aimed to serve the country with humility and dedication. She highlighted that she was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that justice prevailed in a time where a black woman’s intuition was needed in the pursuit of equality and justice to ensure a fair society.

“South Africans have bestowed a lot of confidence in me, and I need to reciprocate that confidence. I will strive to serve with the best interest of our society at heart. Our challenges have always existed and will continue to exist. Your NDPP stands with you and together, we stand for justice, and the nation,” she said.

Weekend Argus