NDPP appointment signals Ramaphosa’s commitment to rule of law

South Africa’s new National Director of Public Prosecutions brings experience, independence and courage to a struggling justice system.

The appointment today of Shamila Batohi as South Africa’s new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) comes at a critical time in the country’s history, and sends a clear message about President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to the rule of law.

Batohi’s selection is the outcome of a transparent interview process initiated by Ramaphosa. The constructive approach to recruitment for one of the most complex posts in government is a first for the country, and will help rebuild confidence in the leadership of South Africa’s most important justice institution.

Public confidence in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has deteriorated significantly in recent years. Multiple changes in leadership, the poor quality of some leaders, and deep controversy about the failure to prosecute several high profile cases has damaged public perceptions, staff morale and the performance of prosecutors.

The crisis at the NPA has undermined the rule of law in South Africa, which is a key component of the social contract that citizens have with their government.

‘Advocate Batohi is an inspired choice. She brings a wealth of experience in prosecuting complex cases, often involving high profile and powerful individuals. She has the technical, managerial and political skills to turn the NPA around,’ said Institute for Security Studies (ISS) head of justice and violence prevention Gareth Newham.

The ISS has for many years tracked the impact of leadership on criminal justice performance. Poor leadership choices under former president Jacob Zuma crippled organisations such as the South African Police Service, NPA and the police’s special investigation unit, the Hawks.

Appointing ethical, experienced and skilled people to head criminal justice agencies is the necessary first step to improving the ability and integrity of these institutions. The next step is enhancing the operational capacity of prosecutors and police, with a focus on better internal systems for performance and accountability.

‘Our new NDPP has her work cut out for her. She needs to inspire her staff and the public, and renew our belief in the independence of the prosecution. She must also improve the NPA’s performance and ensure that those involved in state capture and other serious crimes are brought to justice,’ said Anton du Plessis, Executive Director of the ISS.

To achieve this, Batohi will need a management team with skills, expertise and integrity. The leadership of the NPA, under Batohi’s guidance, must jointly commit to promoting public accountability and upholding the independence of the prosecution.

Batohi will also need to work with civil society, the media and the other state agencies to protect the NPA from those who will seek to undermine its work. The ISS welcomes Batohi’s recognition of the important role for civil society in holding the leadership of South Africa’s criminal justice institutions to account.

The ISS will continue to work with other civil society organisations to help improve the NPA’s performance. ‘Transparency and accountability of the NPA are fundamental to rebuilding public trust in the prosecution service. We will explore ways in which civil society and the media can help achieve this,’ Newham said.

For more information contact:

Gareth Newham, Head, justice and violence prevention, ISS: +27 82 887 1557; [email protected]

Anton du Plessis, Executive Director, ISS: +27 78 781 3619; [email protected]

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