National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Picture: ALON SKUY
National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Picture: ALON SKUY

It has been months that three of the most powerful positions in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have been vacant, with President Cyril Ramaphosa yet to appoint any new deputy national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).

Ramaphosa’s appointment of Shamila Batohi as the NDPP was critical in restoring the integrity of the NPA, which, for more than a decade, was accused of being abused for political ends —  but the second highest layer of the authority’s leadership, taken up by four deputies, is also critical.

Silas Ramaite retired as one of Batohi’s deputies at the beginning of September last year, while Willie Hofmeyr followed suit at the end of November.

Nomgcobo Jiba indicated to parliament that she did not want her job back after resolutely fighting her axing for months, which had to be confirmed by parliament. Parliament then confirmed the decision by Ramaphosa to fire her and special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi at the end of November.

The vacancies created by the retirement of Ramaite and Hofmeyr, and the firing of Jiba resulted in three out of the four deputy positions being vacant. It also created an opportunity for Ramaphosa to appoint people Batohi can trust in the positions. The deputies are the only people that can be appointed as an acting NPA head if Batohi is absent or unable to do her job.

The president now has to appoint the new deputies after consultation with Batohi and justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. There may not be more than four deputies, according to legislation. Advocate Nomvula Mokhatla is currently the only one in a permanent capacity.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said on Wednesday that the consultations between the president, Batohi and Lamola are still taking place. “We do not believe there has been a delay in this regard, given that parliament only tabled their decision relating to the ... [positions] at the end of November. Nonetheless, filling the vacancies is receiving the urgent attention of the president, the minister and the NDPP.” 

Zuma right-hand man

During interviews for the NDPP job late in 2018, candidates detailed that the political factions in the NPA developed from the deputies. Most notably some of the candidates referred specifically to Jiba, who was seen as former president Jacob Zuma’s right-hand man in the NPA.

Bulelwa Makeke, director of communications of the NPA, said on Tuesday that filling these posts is a priority for the NDPP. She said Batohi was having discussions with Lamola to finalise recommendations to the president.

“It is a priority for her to fill the positions, as it is crucial in the rebuilding of the NPA. It impacts at a strategic level and also on the management of operations,” Makeke said.

Lamola said on Friday in an interview that there is no contention behind the delays. He said the matter relating to Jiba was still being dealt with by parliament last year, and that there were also court processes involved, which is no longer the case.

He said, “As and when the time arises, the president will be able to make an announcement.” 

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