President Cyril Ramaphosa made history last month when he asked an advisory panel to furnish him with a shortlist from which to appoint the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP). For the first time since the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was established in 1998, the public was privy to the gruelling interviews of 11 candidates who were nominated or applied for the post. Previously — in line with the constitution and NPA Act — the president appointed the NDPP after consultation with the justice minister. A properly functioning NPA is crucial for the administration of criminal justice. "With a malleable, corrupt or dysfunctional prosecuting authority [in place], many criminals — especially those holding positions of influence — will rarely, if ever, answer for their criminal deeds," the Constitutional Court said in a judgment earlier this year. Given the importance of the institution, the NDPP interviews — in effect an inquiry into the state of the NPA — painted an al...

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