The Witness - - OPINION -

THE ap­point­ment of re­spected ad­vo­cate Shamila Ba­tohi as the na­tional di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions (NDPP) was widely wel­comed on Tues­day.

The ef­forts of the Right2Know cam­paign in ap­ply­ing to the courts to make the in­ter­view process of short-listed can­di­dates pub­lic, paid off and as cit­i­zens we got to watch the in­ter­views and see the can­di­dates’ re­sponses to the tough ques­tions asked. Judge Jo­han Louw agreed with the ar­gu­ments made by Right2Know and its le­gal team, say­ing it was of im­por­tance that con­fi­dence is re­stored in the of­fice of the NDPP. And that’s the crux of this all.

Ba­tohi has been out of the coun­try for nine years, work­ing as an ad­viser at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. Some be­lieve this counts in her favour, while oth­ers fear it will mean she’s out of touch with the in­ner work­ings and pol­i­tics of the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Authority.

In the pre­lude to her ap­point­ment, she went up against peo­ple who have been in the trenches of the NPA and who are in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with the chal­lenges the in­sti­tu­tion faces. They know the strange dy­nam­ics, un­holy al­liances and in­her­ent weak­nesses that have come to plague the South African crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, which in re­cent years was ef­fec­tively re­duced to an in­sti­tu­tion with its in­tegrity in tat­ters.

While her long ab­sence means she may not be fa­mil­iar with the in­tri­ca­cies of the agen­das at play, it could also mean that she sees things with a fresh per­spec­tive, ob­jec­tively. She is not known to have any strong po­lit­i­cal links and this neu­tral­ity could be her strong­est as­set.

South Africans are un­der­stand­ably wary of the speeches made by top off icials who as new brooms prom­ise to sweep clean. They’ve seen weak lead­er­ship and the pol­i­tics of pa­tron­age make a mock­ery of sys­tems that are sup­posed to be there to pro­tect clean gov­er­nance. If Ba­tohi can truly be an agent for change and won’t cave in to what­ever agen­das arise, maybe we can start to have hope in the NPA again. With state cap­ture need­ing to be dealt with de­ci­sively, it’s cer­tainly the right time.

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