Head of NPA’s Investigating Directorate Hermione Cronje ’blew R400m’ on failed advocates
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Pretoria - The head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate, Hermione Cronje, has been accused of “running away” after failing to crack cases despite allegedly spending almost R400 million on white advocates from the Western Cape.
Sources told the Pretoria News that Cronje allegedly also sent “rude” emails to National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi, before announcing her intention to vacate her office.
It is believed that Cronje tried to blame Batohi for her failure to crack-high-profile cases, which resulted in the NPA’s poor conviction rate.
“Cronje is under the influence of a certain politician and was using white advocates in Cape Town and spent almost R400m on them. They were supposed to charge politicians opposed to Ramaphosa. She wanted more money but Batohi refused. She also sent Batohi rude emails,” one source said.
It recently emerged that Cronje had quit her job and will officially leave office in March.
Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Ouma Rabaji-Rasethaba is expected to fill the gap in the meantime.
Another source claimed that Cronje failed to crack cases because she went to the NPA with her own agenda. Her alleged targets included EFF leader Julius Malema and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, whom she wanted charged before March 2022.
“Cronje feels like there is selective prosecution and interference, and these things will catch up with her in future one way or the other. She feels there are people whose cases are given priority and budget while others are not prioritised. Interference is a sense that they are told to work on certain cases; half way through they are told to leave them and focus on others,” the source said.
“Basically, she is running away because she feels whatever is happening there might catch up with her.”
Attempts to reach Cronje proved fruitless as her phone was off yesterday. The Investigating Directorate’s (ID) spokesperson, Sindisiwe Seboka, asked the Pretoria News to email the questions.
However, she did not answer the questions and instead said all enquiries would be addressed by Batohi at a media briefing today.
Legal expert Paul Hoffman said Cronje’s departure will have a serious effect on the NPA’s ability to deal with serious corruption.
Since joining the NPA as the first head of the ID in 2019, Cronje’s main focus had been cases of state capture and corruption. The appointment was for a period of five years.
Commenting on the latest developments yesterday, Hoffman said that if reports of Cronje’s frustrations with alleged executive interference were true, it was clear that the NPA was not independent.
“The courts have said long before the ID was formed that the anti-corruption machinery of the state should be specialised, trained, independent, properly resourced and secure in its tenure of office,” Hoffman said.
“It seems to me that the ID is not independent because it serves at the pleasure of the president.”
He said the prospect of executive influence in the ID was “real and present”, which made it less effective.
*Additional reporting by Kailene Pillay