NPA’s Shamila Batohi wants prosecutors to go after looters until 'heavens fall'
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Johannesburg - National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi has urged the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) staff to be the last line of defence against total anarchy and lawlessness and pursue justice even if the heavens fall.
In a message of encouragement to NPA staff on Thursday in the midst of the deadly chaos and looting across the country, Batohi admitted that the situation is extremely tough at this moment and that the prosecuting authority’s employees need to show that they are staying the course.
”First, in terms of our work we have made commitments in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster and these include prioritising these cases by making sure that we have skilled and experienced prosecutors who are able to work with our colleagues in the SA Police Service to ensure that where there is evidence we prefer the correct charges,” she said, adding NPA staff must be vigilant.
Batohi’s message comes as the NPA on Thursday announced 44 out of 46 suspects arrested for allegedly looting a shopping mall in Diepsloot appeared at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court to face charges of public violence, housebreaking with intent to commit an offence, theft, malicious injury to property and trespassing.
They are also charged with convening a gathering in contravention of the Disaster Management Act and violating lockdown regulations restricting the movement of persons.
The group of 44 will return to court next Thursday to apply for bail while there are other two are still in hospital and will appear in court as soon as they are discharged.
In total, 1 478 people have been arrested while 91 have died in KwaZulu-Natal and another 26 in Gauteng by yesterday, according to acting minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Batohi said the NPA will put in place measures to ensure court processes continue and are not disrupted too much.
”There will certainly be disruptions but we must ensure that we do not put our staff members at risk and even our partners that we work with and so we must be constantly monitoring the situation to see what needs to be done,” she said.
Batohi said: “We need to show that together with our justice system partners we are the last line of defence against total anarchy and lawlessness and we need to make sure that collectively as the justice system we will ensure that we do all that we can, all that is necessary to ensure an orderly society that is based on the respect for the rule of law”.
She pleaded with staff members to draw strength from the Latin maxim “fiat justitia ruat caelum”, which means “let justice be done though the heavens fall”.
Batohi also warned that while challenges have always existed and will continue to exist; it is in meeting them that South Africa will fashion itself as a nation.
”We in the NPA must ensure that we meet these challenges professionally and dispassionately and that we are always guided by the evidence, the truth and justice and nothing else,” she stated.
The former senior legal adviser to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said the widespread looting was a test for each individual, as family members, as communities and ultimately as the nation.
”No matter where we are in these difficult times we need to show leadership and courage and we need to do what we are mandated to do as the NPA,” Batohi said.