Suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba told the Mokgoro inquiry that she was shocked to hear her colleagues say she was not qualified to lead the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Jiba took the stand for the first time on Thursday to respond to allegations levelled against her at the inquiry, headed by retired Constitutional Court justice, Yvonne Mokgoro. The inquiry has been tasked with establishing whether Jiba and special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi are fit for office.
"I faced unprecedented attacks not recorded in South African history," she testified.
Jiba said when she was appointed as a prosecutor in 1988, she never dreamt she would one day serve the country as a deputy national director of public prosecutions.
"I am very passionate about being a prosecutor," she testified.
"The inquiry is something I hope to heal from, whatever the outcome. What is comforting is that it (the inquiry) is held in the public, so my critics can see the truth.
"In the following days, I will speak and say what I've wanted to say for some time now. I welcome this inquiry as an opportunity to account for my years in the NPA. Whatever the outcome, I cherish the moment to speak for myself and in my own words."
Jiba testified that she remained silent for many years while she was criticised.
"Mr [Willie] Hofmeyr scandalised the NPA by making unfortunate statements about the NPA."
She told the inquiry that when she was promoted within the institution, the "promotions were very inspiring as an African woman". But she added that her advancement was not celebrated by all in the NPA.
President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended both Jiba and Mrwebi in October 2018, pending the outcome of the inquiry.
Ramaphosa is expected to receive the inquiry report on March 9.
In a letter to Jiba and Mrwebi, Ramaphosa said: "I have taken into account the serious nature of allegations that you are unfit to be in so high an office, where the work of our criminal justice system is central to the critical and pressing matter of all prosecutions, especially prosecution of corruption cases and safeguard of our public purse.
"You hold a senior position with influence over a large swathe of the NPA. It is the interest of the NPA's image as a whole that I consider here, and of the integrity of an enquiry (sic) that must result in the clearest and most convincing conclusions about the integrity, and sound leadership of the NPA."