President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Advocate Shamila Batohi as National Director of Public Prosecutions. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
Johannesburg - State capture cases, former president Jacob Zuma’s prosecution, political interference and infighting are some of the challenges awaiting the country’s first female National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Shamila Batohi.

On Tuesday, civil society and political parties welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s choice of Batohi to head the embattled institution, which has seen its previous incumbents resign or be removed before their terms ended due to political interference.

Constitutional lobby group Casac hailed her as a suitably qualified and experienced person who would be capable of restoring public confidence in the National Prosecuting Authority.

Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said Batohi would have to be allowed to be independent if she were to be able to turn the institution around.

“Her main tasks now are to restore public confidence in the institution, and ensure staff morale is returned and that prosecutors go about their work unhindered by political interference, especially in the high-profile cases as we have seen,” Naidoo said.

“We hope she will be given the space she needs to turn the institution around and address the many challenges facing it. We are confident she will restore public confidence,” Naidoo added.

Some of the major cases facing Batohi in her new role include the criminal prosecutions of those implicated by the State Capture Commission of Inquiry and the decision on whether to rescind the decision by the NPA to provisionally withdraw charges against the Guptas and their business associates in the Estina dairy farm saga. Also, Zuma is pushing for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Batohi, who has been a senior legal adviser to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court since 2009, is confident of turning the prosecuting body around.

“Enough has been said elsewhere on crises and divisions within the NPA. Suffice to say here is that those elements within and without, who insist on frustrating the ends of justice and ultimately the nation, will not be tolerated,” Batohi said.

Police union Popcru said it hoped that Batohi’s appointment would end what it called the malicious removal of heads of the country’s law enforcement agencies by those in political office.

“The task that lies ahead for the new NDPP head is near insurmountable as there needs to urgently be a change in public perception because the country’s capability to fight organised crime has been decimated by years of political infighting, factionalism and blatant corruption,” Popcru national spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said.

Batohi, who starts her job as NDPP in February, said all prosecutors would enjoy her full support as long as they discharged their jobs with integrity.

“We in the NPA have important work to do, which includes devoting our efforts to hold accountable those who have corrupted our institutions and betrayed the public good and the values of our constitution for private gain, especially those in the most privileged positions of government and corporate power,” Batohi said.

She is a former KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions, who rose through the ranks of the NPA from a junior prosecutor position she occupied in 1986.

She said while the country was on the precipice of corruption and state capture, its challenges could be overcome if everyone did their bit. “My only obligation is to serve the country with humility and with dedication to the best of my ability.

"Each one of us, no matter where we are, must be ready to sacrifice the necessary to fight the good fight. Our country needs us,” she said.

While the EFF welcomed the appointment, it vowed to monitor Batohi. “The EFF will closely monitor all prosecutorial decisions of the NDPP because, for the longest time, cases opened against high-profile politicians and huge capitalist corporations were not followed by thorough prosecutions,” party said.

The Law Society of South Africa said it offered its support to the new NDPP, who it described as skilled, conscientious and independent enough to tackle the troubles in the prosecutorial services.

Ramaphosa urged Batohi to act with integrity and without fear or favour.

Political Bureau