Batohi won’t solve NPA’s ills

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - OPINION - Wil­liam Saun­der­son-Meyer Jaun­diced Eye

Batohi in­her­its an agency that is dys­func­tional, di­vided and ne­glected.

The ap­point­ment of Shamila Batohi as the new head of the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) has elicited wide­spread de­light. In fact, not since Cyril Ramaphosa’s vic­tory over the forces of dark­ness at last De­cem­ber’s lead­er­ship con­fer­ence has there been such na­tional ex­cite­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, Ramaphosa’s “new dawn” has since proven to be some­what de­layed and murkier than hoped.

And, also un­for­tu­nately, the el­e­vated hopes that at­tend Batohi’s ap­point­ment may be sim­i­larly dashed. Not nec­es­sar­ily through any fault of her own.

As we know from the seven-year ten­ure with the pre­vi­ous pub­lic pro­tec­tor, Thuli Madon­sela, a de­ter­mined and hon­est per­son at the head of an in­sti­tu­tion with pow­ers to in­ves­ti­gate and seek re­dress, can make an enor­mous dif­fer­ence.

The first prob­lem that Batohi faces is the in­de­pen­dence of the NPA, or rather the lack thereof. The pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s of­fice is one of only six state in­sti­tu­tions whose in­de­pen­dence is con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected and that are specif­i­cally man­dated to op­er­ate “with­out fear, favour or prej­u­dice”.

Trag­i­cally, the NPA is not one of those six. The ap­point­ment of the head of the NPA has al­ways been a po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ment, made by the pres­i­dent in or­der to achieve par­ti­san ob­jec­tives.

That Ramaphosa, uniquely, has tried to make the ap­point­ment of the new NPA head a trans­par­ent and non-par­ti­san process by in­volv­ing the le­gal pro­fes­sion in the se­lec­tion, is to be com­mended. It does not, how­ever, mean Batohi will not en­counter po­lit­i­cal pres­sures.

It suits the Ramaphosa ad­min­is­tra­tion to be able to dis­tance it­self from the pros­e­cu­tions for state cap­ture that Batohi will now un­doubt­edly pur­sue with vigour. But it is go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent mat­ter when the NPA’s at­ten­tion even­tu­ally lights upon the crim­i­nal ac­tions of some of those who bailed from the Zuma ship to muster un­der the Ramaphosa flag.

The is­sue of NPA in­de­pen­dence is, at least the­o­ret­i­cally, eas­ily solv­able. If the ANC wants a truly in­de­pen­dent na­tional prose­cu­tor, it can sim­ply bring a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to achieve that.

Ad­mit­tedly, a con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tee of in­de­pen­dence is worth lit­tle if it tol­er­ates a process whereby party pawns con­tinue to be ap­pointed. The Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s of­fice and the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (HRC) are both Chap­ter Nine in­sti­tu­tions with legally as­sured in­de­pen­dence, but with very dif­fer­ent out­comes.

The A-G has op­er­ated with ex­em­plary im­par­tial­ity. The HRC, how­ever, is just the ANC’s puppy dog – trained by now to growl on com­mand but when left to its own de­vices, not up to much more than shed­ding hair on the fur­ni­ture and pid­dling all over the floor.

More in­tractable is the other ma­jor hur­dle fac­ing Batohi: that of the NPA’s com­pe­tence. She in­her­its an agency that is dys­func­tional, di­vided and ne­glected.

The problems of the NPA are never go­ing to be solved sim­ply by a new di­rec­tor, no mat­ter how im­pres­sive her cre­den­tials. What is needed is a fun­da­men­tal change in at­ti­tude by ANC to­wards the in­sti­tu­tions that were set up to pro­tect hu­man rights and con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.