President Cyril Ramaphosa is only expected to announce the next National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) towards the end of December, but five candidates have already been shortlisted following the gruelling interviews conducted past week.
Out of the 11 men and women vying for the post, advocates Andrea Johnson, Shamila Batohi, Simphiwe Mlotshwa, Rodney De Kock and Siyabulela Mapoma are the individuals whose names landed on Ramaphosa’s desk for him to peruse and consider.
Two of the five, Batohi and Mlotshwa are from the province, and are believed to be fore-runners together with Johnson.
Batohi became famous when she led evidence during the King Commission in 2000, which investigated the late former Proteas captain Hansie Cronje for allegations of match-fixing.
A few years later she would become the first woman to be appointed as a director of public prosecutions when she took up the job in KwaZulu-Natal.
More recently, she has been based at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands as a senior legal advisor.
Mlotshwa is also a former provincial director of public prosecutions - he resigned in 2015 after a fallout with managers. The committee involved in the selection process has not verified the list in question.
Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, who was appointed by Ramaphosa to lead the interview panel, said he could not guarantee how long the private consultations would take.
“We simply do not know. I can’t say whether it will be this week or the next two weeks but once we’re done the president will be notified,” he said.
Meanwhile, the interviews held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria not only exposed the fitness of the candidates but also provided explosive insight into the current state of the NDPP’s office.
The organisation has been dogged by controversies and seen several prosecution heads leave - including Bulelani Ngcuka, Vusi Pikoli, Mokotedi Mpshe, Menzi Simelane, Nomgcobo Jiba, Mxolisi Nxasana and most recently, Shaun Abrahams.
Those interviewed spoke of how factors such as factionalism, inadequate capacity and in some instances, political meddling, resulted in the public having little confidence in the organisation’s ability to prosecute without fear or favour.
Batohi went as far as describing the NPA as in crisis and a “house on fire”, needing to be extinguished urgently, while others maintained that even the Pope would not be able to rescue the organisation.
Some believe the organisation needs fresh blood.
“We need an outsider, someone new and someone with credibility,” said Ralf Mathekga, a political analyst.
“There’ll be a lot of expectations. Remember there is already an institutional culture. There are those who think the NPA is not in crisis while others don’t. The main thing is for the new NDPP to sit down with senior managers and prosecutors and earn their trust,” he said.
Professor Shadrack Gutto, constitutional law expert, said: “It has to be a person who will work diligently and prosecute without delay. I don’t know what the president will be thinking in making this decision but one thing that is certain is that, the list of names handed over to him have to be very short, perhaps three.
“We need to wrap this up as the office is vacant and one that is pivotal in the justice and criminal system. This will definitely be a difficult task for the president.”
Craig Woolley, director at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said the interview process was rigorous and he was encouraged by how well prepared they were.
“I don’t know the others, except Batohi. She certainly has the experience. Her time with the International Cricket Council on the Hansie Cronje matter would also stand her in good stead.”