Shamila Batohi. Picture: Sunday Times/Masi Losi
Shamila Batohi. Picture: Sunday Times/Masi Losi

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed two senior advocates as deputy national directors of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The move strengthens his efforts to rebuild the body's ability to tackle crime and corruption.

The appointments of Ouma Rasethaba and Rodney de Kock to the top echelons of the NPA are effective as of June 1. Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga, the former NPA spokesperson, has been appointed the special director of public prosecutions in the office of the national director of public prosecutions.

For years, the NPA has been mired in controversy, as the prosecuting authority has been seen as being politically abused for years, especially under the presidency of Jacob Zuma.

The vacancies were of significant importance, as it created a gap for Ramaphosa to appoint deputies in the NPA, which national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi could trust.

The NPA can have as many as four deputies, which is the second-highest leadership level in the prosecuting authority.

Three vacancies became vacant late in 2019, with the retirement of Silas Ramaite and Willie Hofmeyr, and the axing of Nomgcobo Jiba from the post following an inquiry into her fitness to hold such high office. Advocate Nomvula Mokhatla was the only permanent deputy NDPP for months.

Batohi took the reins of the NPA in February 2019, after a public interview process in December 2018, which saw interviewees tell the panel that the factions in the NPA arose from the level of the deputies.  

The new appointments were made in consultation with Batohi and justice minister Ronald Lamola.

“These appointments are essential for the efficient functioning and rebuilding of the NPA as part of the fight against crime and corruption and as a contribution to deepening the capability of the state,” the presidency said in a statement on Monday morning.

The presidency said Rasethaba brought at least 30 years of legal experience since her admission as an attorney in 1990 and an advocate six years later.

She holds a B Proc (University of the North), LLB (University of the Witwatersrand), Dip. company Law (University of the Witwatersrand) and LLM (University of Pretoria).

Rasethaba is a governance and risk expert, having worked in the corporate sector for 10 years.

Before De Kock's appointment, he was director of public prosecutions in the Western Cape since 2003.

He has 32 years of relevant legal experience, with 15 of those spent at an executive level in the NPA, the presidency said. He has a BA and LLB degree.

Mhaga will be the strategic and legal adviser in Batohi’s office.

The presidency said he will provide legal advice to the national director regarding specific legal and administrative issues; provide strategic inputs in matters brought before the national director, and will manage the relationship between the office of the national director and NPA stakeholders.

Mhaga previously worked in it in a variety of roles, including as a  senior state advocate in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU), the priority crimes litigation unit and as a member of the now defunct Scorpions.