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‘Your days of acting with impunity are numbered’ – Batohi’s stern message on first day of NPA job

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 4: Newly appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Shamila Batohi and President Cyril Ramaphosa during the announcement of her appointment at the Union Buildings on November 4, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. Batohi, who is the first woman to be appointed the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), will start her new role in February next year. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

New National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi has issued a stern warning to would-be corrupters as she takes charge of the nation's prosecuting authority.

Batohi arrived in Pretoria four days ago from the International Criminal Court (ICC), where she worked previously, and held a joint press briefing with Justice Minister Michael Masutha on Friday – her first day on the job.

The incoming NPA head had a message to anyone involved in corrupt activities – both within the state and the private sector.

“Corruption is driven by greed and selfishness. In certain contexts, when public institutions are corrupted, it amounts to theft from ordinary South Africans just trying to make ends meet.

“We need to ensure that money goes where it was intended. I commit to leading an organisation that has the courage and the ability to end this damaging state of affairs.

“Perpetrators of crime and corruption within the state and private sector, regardless of who you are, where you are, how rich you are, your days of acting with impunity are numbered.”

State capture allegations will receive ‘immediate’ attention

Batohi acknowledged that the road was dark, saying she was under no illusions about the task at hand.

“We know it is difficult, but we are determined,” Batohi said.

“I return to the NPA at a time of crisis, not only for the organisation, but for the rule of law in South Africa. Without it, the country is on a slippery slope, and the cancer of impunity festers and grows…

“But despite these challenges, I am really confident that the NPA will become an organisation that puts justice first and one we can all be proud of…”

She said the organisation also needed more capacity to deliver. She would work tirelessly with government counterparts to ensure the NPA was effective.

“I know that everyone out there is hungry about justice. You have every right to be. Serious allegations have emerged, some old, some new, but all damaging if they have been found to have any basis in fact.

“What is emerging is distressing in the extreme and will receive immediate attention from me and my team.”

‘Prosecutors are not for sale’

She also hinted that compromised members of the NPA would have no place at the institution under her leadership.

“There is a dark cloud hanging over the NPA. The NPA needs a change in leadership, ones that prosecutors and all South Africans can be proud of.”

She told NPA staff in her first meeting that she offered her loyalty to those who wanted to uphold the Constitution.

“Importantly however, members of the NPA who are unwilling to work as professionals with integrity, do not have a future at the organisation. Prosecutors are not for sale.”

She also thanked members of the media, civil society, and the public for bringing the country “back from the edge of state of capture”.

“We will take it from here as the NPA,” she promised.

‘I will take it to the Constitutional Court if needs be’

Answering questions, Batohi said she had spoken to President Cyril Ramaphosa about protecting the NPA’s independence.

In a meeting shortly after her appointment, she said she put the question to Ramaphosa. “I did have a conversation with the president, and I said to him, ‘I know it’s guaranteed in the Constitution, but I want you to give me that assurance.’

“Unhesitatingly, the president said there would be no political interference into the work of the NPA. So I feel fairly confident that that won’t happen.

“Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, and if it does, I will fiercely defend it and I will take it to the Constitutional Court if needs be.” DM

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