NDPP Shamila Batohi has urged court officials to have empathy and humility when dealing with the millions of citizens seeking recourse in the courts. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

Pretoria - National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi has urged court officials, particularly prosecutors, to have empathy and humility when dealing with the millions of South Africans seeking recourse in the courts.

"We must be a professional organisation. What does professionalism mean? It is not just wearing a nice suit, standing in the court and prosecuting a case. It is about how we behave everyday, not just in court. It's about how we treat our colleagues with respect. How we speak to people we engage with, whether they are our partners in fighting crime, the police, or the victims of crime," Batohi told a cohort of recruits taking part in the the NPA’s annual training programme of aspirant prosecutors.

"You treat them with humility. You treat them kindly. Many of you are coming from the courts environment. Those people that line our courts, the [court] passages, they are not there because they want to be there. They are there because they have been injured and they have been hurt. They see us as trying to bring some measure of justice into their lives. Be kind and humble. We are humble civil servants."

Batohi told the aspirant prosecutors that "there is no space for arrogance". She charged the recruits to ensure that citizens who turn to courts get the service they seek.

The prosecutions boss warned the recruits that they would lose their jobs if they succumb to the temptation of corruption, in the face of certain individuals in society bent on paying bribes.

"If you are tempted, whether it's R10 or R100 - there will be a process, it will be fair and if you're found guilty, you will be fired. That is the reality, and life is tough out there. It's tough. We had six posts for entry-level prosecutors in the Free State ... do you know how many people applied for those six positions? Over six thousand. People with PhDs, people in private practice wanting to enter the prosecution service because times are bad, the economy is down," she said.

The NDPP said unfortunately communities do not trust State prosecutors anymore.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said prosecutors have a critical role of curing society, taking away the malcontents causing suffering in communities.

"There is no judge or magistrate that can remove a person from society when you [as a prosecutor] did not do your job. It is a very difficult task for you because you are now prosecuting in an environment of a constitutional democracy where you are expected to prove beyond any reasonable doubt. Any slightest doubt can set a sexual offender, a murderer or a burglar free," he said.

"It is important that you not only prosecute without fear or favour, but that due diligence, that attention to detail, that meticulous look at what is in front of you is what will ensure that South Africa is a crime-free country. It is important that we become a crime-free country."

The NPA is running an extensive in-service training aimed at equipping law graduates with practical skills that will enable them to work as prosecutors. 

The justice department said the unveiling of this programme is a significant step towards building a pool from which the State can nurture the skills of future prosecutors and ensure that the Justice College is fully functional.

African News Agency (ANA)