Glynnis Breytenbach

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday said its spokeswoman on justice, MP Glynnis Breytenbach, withdrew from the shortlist of candidates for national director of public prosecutions because the party believed the job should go to someone removed from party politics.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the position, and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) itself, had become tarnished by political meddling. 

"Successive national directors have used the position to influence politics, pursue factional battles, suppress certain prosecutions and unduly pursue others. In so doing, they have defeated the ends of justice and have undermined that sacred cornerstone of constitutional democracy, equality before the law,"  Maimane said.

"The actions of these directors have over time cemented in the public mind the perception that the justice system can be easily abused by the politically powerful and connected, and that the NPA answers to political masters, rather than making the corrupt answer to the law. Indeed, it was exactly this kind of abuse that led to Adv Breytenbach leaving the NPA and joining the Democratic Alliance."

Breytenbach was a public prosecutor for a quarter of a century but left the NPA and joined the DA in 2014 after she was cleared of 14 disciplinary charges. Breytenbach maintained that these were instituted to spare former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli prosecution.

Maimane cited the politically motivated charges brought against then finance minister Pravin Gordhan in 2016 as an example of the political abuse of the NPA, but added that it was not pioneered by the Zuma administration but had already occurred while Thabo Mbeki was president.

"If public faith in the NPA it is to be rebuilt at all, the President must appoint someone who is seen to be totally above party politics. It is not enough to know that the person will act independently. They must also be seen to be independent," he said. 

"And it is this factor which has led to the decision that Adv. Breytenbach has made."

A panel that will make recommendations to President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Wednesday began interviewing candidates for the post, during sittings at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Ramaphosa must appoint a new head of the NPA by December 19.

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African News Agency (ANA)