Silas Ramaite at NPA committee meeting in Cape Town, October 2014. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/ TREVOR SAMSON
Silas Ramaite at NPA committee meeting in Cape Town, October 2014. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/ TREVOR SAMSON

For the third time in 15 years, Silas Ramaite has been appointed to lead the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in an acting capacity.

Ramaite is the NPA’s deputy national director responsible for administration and the office for witness protection. He has served as deputy director of the NPA for 15 years and first acted as NPA boss after Bulelani Ngcuka resigned as the country’s national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) in 2004. His second stint as acting NDPP came after Mxolisi Nxasana left office in 2014 after being offered a R17m golden handshake by former president Jacob Zuma.

The Constitutional Court on Monday gave President Cyril Ramaphosa a clean slate to appoint a leadership team at the NPA by ruling that the appointment of NDPP Shaun Abrahams was constitutionally invalid.

This came after the apex court confirmed a high court order which reviewed and set aside the settlement agreement which saw Nxasana leave office.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Dr Silas Ramaite as the Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions. Here is what you need to know about him. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

Ramaphosa said in his inaugural state of the nation address that he would sort out the leadership crisis in the NPA, which has for years been accused of being politically captured.

No NDPP has completed the full 10-year term since the NPA’s formation.

With Abrahams ordered by the court to vacate office on Monday, on Tuesday Ramaphosa announced that Ramaite would once again act in the position. A permanent NDPP will be appointed within 90 days, the presidency said.

Ramaphosa believes “this week’s court judgment has set the NPA on a path that will restore the integrity of the [prosecuting] authority and build the nation’s confidence in the criminal justice system”, the presidency said.

But Glynnis Breytenbach, the DA’s spokesperson on justice and constitutional development and former senior state prosecutor, said Ramaite “sat idly by while successive NDPPs and acting NDPPs, including Mokotedi Mpshe, Menzi Simelane, [Nomgcobo] Jiba and Abrahams, systematically destroyed the fabric of the NPA and SA’s criminal justice system”.

“His track record proves that, at best, he is weak, vacillating and pliable,” Breytenbach said.

She called on Ramaphosa to urgently appoint a new permanent NDPP, adding that the president should involve parliament in the selection process.

Luvuyo Mfaku, the NPA spokesperson, said Abrahams, who had been the NDPP since 2015 and worked in the NPA for more than 20 years, was no longer an employee of the NPA.

Mfaku said that Abrahams would clear out his office this week and that he would do a handover to Ramaite.

Lawson Naidoo, from the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, said Ramaphosa had gone with the safe option in appointing Ramaite as the acting NDPP.

Naidoo, together with Freedom Under Law and Corruption Watch, brought the application that resulted in Abrahams’ appointment being nullified.

According to the NPA Act, Ramaphosa had to appoint an acting head out of the four deputy national directors, one of which is the disgraced Jiba, who has given reasons to Ramaphosa as to why she should not be suspended pending an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

“I assume the president has confidence in him to steady the ship before he hands over to the NDPP,” Naidoo said.

Speculation is rife over who Ramaphosa will appoint, with former NDPP Vusi Pikoli and Western Cape director of prosecutions Rodney de Kock being mentioned.

Pikoli has, however, said he is not interested.