Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

President Cyril Ramaphosa will announce on Tuesday what is potentially the most important appointment since he took office in February, that of the national director of public prosecutions.

Following a historic selection process, which involved an advisory panel interviewing 11 candidates for the post for the first time since the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was established in 1998, Ramaphosa will make the announcement at the Union Buildings on Tuesday afternoon.

The appointment of the national director of public prosecutions has in the past been a politically laden one and concerns over the independence of the country’s top prosecutor   were raised during the presidencies of both Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

A glaring indication of this was testimony before the commission of inquiry into state capture last week, when ANC leader advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi said his adviser advocate Mahlodi Muofhe was offered the post of national director of public prosecutions, but he believed the condition of his appointment would be that he “did not touch” Zuma ally in the NPA, Nomgcobo Jiba.

Muofhe said Zuma was upset that then NPA head Mxolisi Nxasana had charged Jiba. He told the commission he believed Zuma wanted to appoint him but Jiba would be the “default” NPA head. Former NPA head Shaun Abrahams was eventually appointed instead. 

Ramaphosa’s advisory panel, chaired by energy minister Jeff Radebe, shortlisted five nominees for the post. The selection will be made from this group of five. They are advocates Shamila Batohi, Siyabulela Mapoma, Simphiwe Mlotshwa, Rodney de Kock and Andrea Johnson.

The five were interviewed in November and during the grilling they exposed the true extent of the rot at the NPA. The interview process painted an alarming picture of interference and factionalism which led to paralysis in some structures, and instability in the organisation as a whole.

There are indications that Ramaphosa preferred a female national director of public prosecutions. If so, his appointee would be the first woman to head the institution, which is critical for the administration of justice.

Front runners for the post include Johnson and Batohi.

Batohi, a former director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal and senior legal adviser at the International Criminal Court, in her interview likened taking up the national director of public prosecutions position to “jumping into a shark tank”.

Johnson, a firebrand prosecutor and deputy director of public prosecutions in Pretoria, in her interview said she believed there was political interference in state capture cases at the NPA. She also described the task as an arduous one, saying even the pope would struggle in the post.

With Claudi Mailovich