President Cyril Ramaphosa has made four major appointments to the team of Shamila Batohi, the national director of public prosecutions.
The four now complete her full team, and there can be no more excuses about a lack of human resources from the National Prosecuting Authority to see more criminals in orange overalls.
Advocate Anton du Plessis will resign from his job in New York as a top advisor to the UN Security Council to become the fourth national deputy director of prosecutions, while three leading women prosecutors from within the NPA have been promoted into key roles. All four positions take up their positions on 1 March, Ramaphosa announced.
The three new special directors are Advocate Lebogang Dineo Baloyi in the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit; Advocate Bonnie Currie-Gamwo in the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit and Advocate Priya Biseswar in the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
Special directors report to the national directorate. On 1 February, Batohi will have been in office for two years, in which time the public has grown impatient. Not a single individual who took part in State Capture (the South African term for grand corruption) has been jailed, although senior politicians like ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and former ANC MP Vincent Smith have been charged with various criminal offences.
The four new appointments promise an accelerated drive to fix the criminal justice system, which Batohi pronounced as broken and dysfunctional once she had had a chance to study it.
In her first public speech in February 2019, she said, “I return to the NPA at a time of crisis – not only for the organisation but also the rule of law in South Africa.”
Du Plessis returns to the NPA after an illustrious international career, most recently at the UN but also as the director of the Pan-African Institute for Security Studies (ISS). He has helped reform criminal justice systems in more than 20 countries in the rest of Africa. At the NPA in the nineties, he led the development of the sexual offences court and Thuthuzela care centres for people (mostly women) who are victims of gender-based violence.
At the UN, Du Plessis was the lead on the Security Council’s counter-terrorism executive directorate. He and his family moved to New York last year and he was going places, but was offered the role to be part of the team to shift the NPA’s shape.
South Africans at the UN have generally done well, like former acting deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka who is an extraordinarily successful head of UN Women; and Fink Haysom, an under-secretary-general who has been deployed to some of the hottest spots on the globe.
Du Plessis will be responsible for driving strategy and compliance at the NPA. He will also be responsible for innovation and improving the quality of courts and therefore of criminal justice.
South Africa’s criminal justice system is still in the analogue age. However, due to Covid’s requirement of physical distancing, the era of virtual courts may yet see a leap into the digital justice universe.
Baloyi inherits the hottest seat in the NPA’s Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU). It was stripped in the era of State Capture as this unit is a vital cog in the corruption-fighting machine.
Together with the Special Investigating Directorate, headed by Hermione Cronje, the SCCU is where a lot of the action will be as grand corruption is increasingly prosecuted at the highest ranks.
Once the Zondo Commission of Inquiry report into State Capture comes out in June this year, the Investigating Directorate and the SCCU will drive the prosecutions that will make it successful.
Baloyi, who has acted in her position since 2019, was previously with the Scorpions. “(She) oversaw the work of the Organised Crime Unit of the NPA where she provided guidance and support to the investigation and prosecution of a broad range of organised crime offences.”
Baloyi will manage the NPA’s work in the national Anti-Corruption Task Team and the Fusion Centre, a multi-agency body dealing with Covid-19 corruption.
The war on violence against women, what Ramaphosa’s calls our “second pandemic”, will be prosecuted by Currie-Gamwo, a lifer at the NPA who joined as an aspirant prosecutor in 1997.
“Her skills as a litigator have secured the successful prosecutions of several child rapists, child murderers, traffickers and perpetrators of femicide (intimate partner murder).
“She successfully managed various portfolios relating to these specialised crimes where she introduced important innovations to enhance the effectiveness of the NPA in dealing with these priority matters,” according to the Presidency’s announcement.
The third part of the triangle of super prosecutorial appointees is Biseswar, another long-term prosecutor in the NPA. In her 23 years as a district, regional and high court prosecutor, she has become an asset forfeiture expert. She has been with the Asset Forfeiture Unit since 2002.
Biseswar will also lead South Africa’s global role in organisations like the UN Convention against Corruption, the Financial Action Task Force of the OECD country bloc, at BRICS and the G20. This is vital work in tracking illicit financial flows – a big part of the State Capture story in South Africa.
“These appointments are essential for the efficient functioning and rebuilding of the NPA as part of the fight against serious crime, including sexual and gender-based crimes and corruption, and as a contribution to deepening the capability of the state” said the Presidency statement.
In February 2019, Batohi said: “Perpetrators of corruption and crime within the state and private sector – regardless of who you are, how rich you are, and what position you hold – your days of acting with impunity are numbered.” Two years on, perhaps that is true now.
Batohi has faced staff rumblings for making outside appointments, but three of her four new appointments are internal promotions which send a message of trust to those who have been loyal to the NPA. DM
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