South Africa: Batohi Readying for Battle, Expecting Political Attacks

Left: National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi. NPA Investigative Directorate head advocate Hermione Cronje.

National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi says she is under no illusion that she, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the new Investigative Directorate will be the target of political attacks.

"That's going to happen, that's definitely going to happen. We are going to be accused of pursuing persons for political and other motives. And we expect to be attacked personally as well, and we hope that when it does happen, that civil society and those who want to fight the good fight will be behind us," Batohi said at a press conference at the NPA's headquarters in Silverton, Pretoria, on Friday morning.

And she added she didn't care "what happens on Twitter".

Batohi was updating the media about the progress she has made in reconfiguring the NPA since assuming office in February this year. She also introduced Advocate Hermione Cronje as the head of the investigative directorate in her office. Cronje will lead a specialised unit to investigate and prosecute allegations of state capture and high-level corruption.

Both Batohi and Cronje seemed acutely aware of public expectations of the NPA's new management and the political minefields they will have to navigate. They also explained that the public's expectation of justice must be balanced with fairness and the need for thorough investigations.

"When you go after the king you have to make sure you kill him. That means we need to have a watertight case. Not just the evidence will be attacked, but we will be attacked, from various quarters. We have to make sure we don't rush with cases. And we have to bear in mind the country's expectations, but we also have to ensure we have solid cases.

"We are aware... we need to demonstrate that the wheels of justice are turning. We'll be looking at various cases, but people will have to understand we cannot go to court and have another Estina dairy debacle again, where cases are withdrawn because we haven't properly investigated it," Batohi said.

Key and high-profile cases will take time to finalise, but the NPA needs to get it right, she added.

She dismissed politicians' criticism of her, including Julius Malema - who accused her of being controlled by Pravin Gordhan - and said there would be many opinions about her: "I don't really care what people say. I don't care what happens on Twitter. I, and the NPA, know what needs to be done. There will be whispers and allegations, but we will ignore it and ensure that we pursue justice."

The NDPP acknowledged that the NPA and the Scorpions, a specialised investigating and prosecutions unit that was dissolved in 2008, became the target of attacks because it was perceived by some to be acting politically.

She explained that Cronje's directorate would not be driven by political and other agendas and that her office and the NPA would not be influenced by what happened on social media.

"We need to hold people accountable. This has got nothing to do with agendas. It's all about the evidence. And it's all about solving the massive corruption problem we have in South Africa," she said.

The new unit, Batohi said, is very similar to the Scorpions because it will also have an investigating, forensic and prosecuting ability.

It will be crucial however to get the right people in the right positions to prevent turf wars from erupting, such as in the case between the police in the Scorpions more than a decade ago, she added.

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