Bulldog cuts NPA leash
More time now for loved ones and golf, says Nel
THEY call him the bulldog but advocate Gerrie Nel struggles to remember who gave him that “silly” nickname.
“Whoever it was, he was barking up the wrong tree, Nel tells the Saturday Star just days after he walked out of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) this week.
“I’m going to have so much more time to spend with my loved ones now. I’ll have more time for my other passions, like golf. I’m a golf nut”.
Nel is undoubtedly one of the country’s most celebrated and successful prosecutors, and he admits he is going to miss his job as a senior officer of the court. “I’ll always be a prosecutor and I’ll miss my old job, especially the adrenalin rush you get from arguing a case in a courtroom.”
Nel can’t recall his very first case, it was 34 years ago after all, but he doesn’t hesitate on his most difficult: the Jackie Selebi trial in which the dedicated senior counsel faced off with the police chief, ultimately sending him to jail.
Nel famously called Selebi an “arrogant liar” – the court agreed and Selebi was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
Nel also played an integral role in the prosecution of Janus Waluz, the Polish immigrant who, together with Clive Derby Lewis, assassinated SACP leader Chris Hani in 1993. Over the years, Nel has built his name for taking on these big cases: his sheer determination and skill is what won him many convictions.
But it was the case against Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who murdered his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013, that placed Nel onto the world stage. Nel regrets ever uttering that pesky phrase, “I put it to you” while questioning the athlete in court. “People say that to me all the time. I’m so sorry I ever said that. It irritates me.” During the trial, Nel’s skills were on spectacular display for the world to see.
The lauded prosecutor grilled the athlete with brutal and unrelenting gusto. He made Pistorius cry, several times.
Nel was so dedicated to his job he never socialised with his colleagues outside of work.
One of his colleagues, Mthunzi Mhaga, stated that he always displayed a character of “skilful prosecuting, he had a brilliant art of presenting evidence and was always patient with witnesses”.
Nel has spent most of this week defending his shock resignation and his unexpected move to AfriForum.
But he refuses to be drawn on the suspected troubles at the NPA, and shrugs off criticism of his new job, heading the civil rights organisation’s prosecuting team.
He told one radio station this week: “I’m still me. My integrity is intact. It will remain intact. But right now I’m just a man who saw an opportunity to start something new, and I took it.”
And until AfriForum’s private prosecuting unit is up and running, Nel will relish the simple things – TV and food.
“I love the Big Bang Theory. It’s my favourite show. I can now sit and watch in peace, eating my favourite dish, steak, egg and chips and relax.”