While the process of appointing a new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) is underway, it may come with some surprises and unprecedented approaches.
For the first time on Monday, the advisory panel — which President Cyril Ramaphosa set up to help him with the appointment of a new NDPP — met to confirm its mandate and set out time frames for it to complete its work.
One of the decisions it took was to have the post advertised in the media and for the process to be conducted similar to the process used when making a judicial appointment.
Commenting on the decision, former NDPP Vusi Pikoli told media that it was certainly unprecedented and was a “step in the right direction because it is a transparent process”.
“It gives everybody an opportunity to apply for the post if one believes that he or she should be considered for the position,” Pikoli said.
He said whoever emerged as the suitable candidate would therefore be a person that the public would have confidence in because they would have gone through a competitive process, through the panel, rather than solely through the president.
Usually, the power to appoint and remove the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is bestowed on the president.
“I am very much in favour of the process, but it does not take away the president’s constitutional obligation to appoint someone,” Pikoli said.
Executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), Lawson Naidoo said the organisation welcomed the process to allow the vacancy to be advertised.
“The only concern is that the time frames appear to be very tight, but we certainly hope that the panel will be able to accomplish its objectives within the time frames it has set for itself,” he said.
Naidoo said Casac has long been calling for a more “open and transparent process” in the appointment of the NDPP and said the steps taken by the panel were closer to that.
“We would also like to see that the interviews are conducted in public as the interviews for judges…” he said.
University of the Witwatersrand law professor James Grant added that while the process might attract different kinds of individuals in theory, in practice it might not do so.
He added that it was good practice going forward and also showed that the field was open.
“Maybe this is a nice break from past traditions of always relying on one’s peers to put one forward (nominate). While this might seem like a break, in practice it might not translate to that,” he said.
In terms of section 179(1)(a) of the Constitution, an NDPP, who is the head of the prosecuting authority, is appointed by the president.
The candidate should be a South African who possesses legal qualifications that would entail him or her to practice in all courts in the country.
The panel is to complete its work within a timeline that allows Ramaphosa to comply with a deadline set by the Constitutional Court to appoint a new NDPP.
The court gave Ramaphosa 90 court days after making its ruling on August 13. — News24