Advocate Matodzi Makhari began her interview confidently.
On Wednesday, she was the first woman candidate to face an all-male panel of interviewers, testing her suitability for the job of national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).
Makhari started by saying what other candidates before her had denied: the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has lost support and has come into disrepute.
“Trust and confidence were eroded. I don’t want to insinuate that someone did something wrong, but the institution was no longer the institution it was in 1998,” Makhari said.
“It appears our country has lost confidence in us,” she said.
Makhari was challenged by panellists because she has never represented cases in a high court — which is seen as a drawback, Her view, however, was that the NPA required excellent leadership to restore public trust, and she was the right person for the job.
During one exchange with Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, who is a member of the panel, Makhari provoked laughter from the panel as she spoke on her views of a great leader, who she said is born and not made.
“Who is this great leader?” Makwetu asked.
“Myself,” Makhari responded.
“Why didn’t you say so?” Makwetu said.
“I was trying to be modest,” Makhari said with a smile, eliciting laughter.
While she seemed to charm the panel, she was questioned at length about some of the decisions she would make if she was appointed NDPP. Makhari maintained that if there was the prima facie case with insufficient evidence to win in court, then the prosecution would be delayed until there was sufficient evidence.
She was challenged on the grounds that if there is prima facie evidence, then the case should be prosecuted. But Makhari maintained that there should be sufficient evidence before a case goes to court.
She ended her interview by telling the panel that even if she did not have experience in a high court, she was still able to lead a team of prosecutors in the NPA and make sound decisions with her independence intact.
Pretoria chief prosecutor, Matric Luphondo, also maintained that he would be independent if he was appointed NDPP.
Luphondo — who was schooled in English but forced to practice in Afrikaans when he worked in the farming town of Middleburg in Mpumalanga — was among the first black chief prosecutors in the sector. He spoke passionately of assisting young black lawyers, helping to build confidence in themselves and going with them to court.
“I had to lead transformation,” Luphondo said.
He remembered one young prosecutor whom he had recruited in Middleburg and the messages he had received when this prosecutor arrived.
“Reports were coming to my office that he was not capable. These reports were coming from attorneys. These reports were coming from the police. [They were] key stakeholders,” Luphondo said.
He also said that in his time at Middleburg “people tried to corrupt me”. He detailed two incidences to the panel where he thwarted these attempts. In the first instance, someone had offered to buy him alcohol in exchange for dropping a case, and in another instance, a friend had taken him for a drive in a “very beautiful” BMW. Luphondo’s friend did not own the vehicle. The owner of the car offered Luphondo a BMW if he dropped a case. Luphondo said he refused. Luphondo added he is no longer in contact with the friend who introduced him to the owner of the car because the friend had died.
Asked about what the independence of the NPA meant to him, Luphondo replied: “It is the refusal to be unduly influenced.”
Andrew Chauke, the director of public prosecutions* in south Gauteng, is the final candidate to be interviewed on Wednesday. In total, eleven candidates have been shortlisted for the top job, with President Cyril Ramaphosa making the final decision as to whom he will appoint.