Peter Bruce Editor-at-large & columnist


I thought President Cyril Ramaphosa had a pretty good state of the nation speech on Thursday. One measure of its political impact was the foul temper in which the EFF left parliament afterwards. One of its MPs hit a policeman.

Another would be to think for a moment about the enormity of the proclamation Ramaphosa said he would sign to give the national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, authority to establish in her office an investigating director. In many ways, and I’m sure Ramaphosa appreciates it, he will be creating a new level of the state. Under the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act, an investigating director is hugely powerful and, apart from reporting to Batohi, has almost no constraint.

In the US they call these people special counsel. Robert Mueller, the guy investigating Donald Trump’s Russian ties, is one. Once these people get going as both police and prosecutor, they are hard to stop. And Ramaphosa has vowed not to interfere. Not ever. There are only two obvious candidates for this job. One is Glynnis Breytenbach, now a DA MP but once one of the NPA’s best prosecutors, before being forced out by Jacob Zuma’s proxies. The other is Andrea Johnson, also a tough and experienced prosecutor and the person Batohi beat to the job. My guess is the job will go to Johnson. Breytenbach’s short career in opposition politics is difficult. But, I suspect, both Batohi and Johnson would want her in the investigative directorate. And she would want in herself. And if the police minister really is going to fire Robert McBride, the latter could find himself inside the directorate as well. The directorate can investigate literally anything it likes. Ramaphosa’s only control will b...

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