New national director of public prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi addresses the nation shortly after her appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday, December 4 2018. Picture: MASI LOSI
New national director of public prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi addresses the nation shortly after her appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday, December 4 2018. Picture: MASI LOSI

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Shamila Batohi as the new national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).

Batohi will be the first woman to lead the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

She is a former director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal and senior legal adviser at the International Criminal Court. During her interview for the position she likened taking up the NDPP position to “jumping into a shark tank”.

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.

“The NDPP in our country occupies a vital position in our democracy and makes an essential contribution to upholding the rule of law.… As we address matters that South Africans are most concerned about, such as state capture, corruption and widespread criminality, our country needs an NPA that is above reproach,” Ramaphosa said on Tuesday. 

“The NDPP needs to be able to take decisions independently and impartially.”

The president had until December 19 to appoint a replacement for ousted NDPP Shaun Abrahams, whose appointment was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.

Ramaphosa’s announcement on Tuesday followed a selection process, which involved an advisory panel interviewing 11 candidates for the post.

This was the first time such a process had been initiated since the NPA was established in 1998.

The advisory panel, set up by the president and chaired by energy minister Jeff Radebe, shortlisted five nominees for the post.

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

During Ramaphosa’s first state of the nation address in February, the president said one of his priorities would be dealing with the NPA’s leadership issues to ensure it was “stabilised and able to perform its mandate unhindered”.

The NPA’s deputy head, Nomgcobo Jiba, who was seen as one of former president Jacob Zuma’s closest allies in the prosecuting authority, is currently on suspension and will be facing an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za