The drafters of SA’s constitution had clear aims when it came to the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). It cemented the notion in section 179 that national legislation must ensure that the NPA exercises its functions, namely to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, without “fear, favour, or prejudice”. Who would head this crucial institution was also on their minds, as the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) was to be appointed by the president. But what would happen if the president did not play according to the rules? What if we had a president who would be willing to abuse this power for his or her political gain? This was not a consideration in the heady days of our democratic breakthrough, and left a loophole open to abuse. Since the NPA’s establishment in 1998, not one of its directors completed a full 10-year term in office.

Bulelani Ngcuka was the first to take office, and held the position longest. After his exit the...

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