SA's new national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Picture: GCIS
SA's new national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Picture: GCIS

Newly appointed national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) under her leadership will be underpinned by strong governance principles and independence.

Batohi, whose appointment was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, will be the first woman to lead the prosecuting authority in the permanent position of NDPP. She will take up her role in February 2019 after serving out her notice period at the International Criminal Court (ICC), where she works as a senior legal adviser.

Not a single NDPP has completed their non-renewable 10-year term at the NPA since its establishment in 1998. Batohi’s appointment is unique in the sense that, for the first time, it involved an advisory panel publicly interviewing 11 candidates for the post. The panel then made recommendations to Ramaphosa.

It will be the job of the new NDPP to clean up the NPA, which has in the past been hamstrung by political interference and marred in controversy around the independence of the position of top prosecutor.

During her interview, Batohi, who had previously spent 15 years at the NPA — including as director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal — likened taking up  the NDPP position to “jumping into a shark tank”.

She joined the ICC in 2009, which means she has not been with the NPA for the past decade and so has not been embroiled in the factional fights raging inside the prosecuting authority highlighted by prosecutors during the NDPP interview processes.

“Enough has been said elsewhere on [the] crisis and divisions within the NPA …  these elements within and without who insisted on frustrating the ends of justice and ultimately the nation will not be tolerated,” Batohi said after her appointment.

“We in the NPA have important work to do, which includes devoting our efforts to holding accountable those who have corrupted our institutions, who have betrayed the public good and the values of our constitution for private gain — especially those in the most privileged positions in [the] government and corporate power.”

She said it was non-negotiable that the country had absolute confidence in the work of a credible NPA.

Ramaphosa said that as SA worked on addressing issues such as state capture, corruption and widespread crime, the country needed an NPA that was above reproach.

“The NDPP must ensure that the NPA exercises its functions without fear, favour or prejudice and should not be beholden to any vested interests, whether in politics, in business or elsewhere,” Ramaphosa said.