Acting national director of public prosecutions Silas Ramaite delivered a less than stellar performance during an interview for the top job at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Wednesday marked the first day of interviews at Union Buildings in Pretoria, where five candidates are scheduled to be interviewed. Ramaite — who was the first candidate to be interviewed by an advisory panel — has been at the NPA for at least 15 years.
He had to be asked on several occasions and by various panellists to answer questions put to him “directly”.
“You are not answering questions directly. We want to know what’s happening at the NPA, what’s your role,” Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, who is chairing the panel, chided Ramaite.
“You have deprived us from getting insights,” Auditor General Kimi Makwetu, also a panellist, said.
Ramaite appeared unable to satisfy the panel as he was grilled on the NPA’s stability and actions he had taken in previous years during his long tenure at the NPA.
When asked if there had been any interference in prosecutorial decisions, Ramaite responded: “Not that I am personally aware.”
Radebe interjected at this point, saying Ramaite has a responsibility to know what happens in the NPA because he has been there “for many years”.
Ramaite credited the instability which has plagued the institution as being a result of former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mxolisi Nxasana’s departure from the organisation. The role of NDPP is perceived as a tenuous position to hold: not one official appointed to the post has ever served the full 10-year term.
Ramaite and another candidate for the position — Advocate Siyabulela Mapoma — were asked about their independence and if it could be compromised. Both answered no.
It appears, however, that the panel — in addressing concerns of interference raised in the case of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and the Ginwala Commission of Inquiry — are focusing on issues of prosecutorial independence.
Mapoma, who has experience as a prosecutor, a magistrate, and hails from the corporate sector — but has not worked in the NPA for the past 10 years.
Mapoma was questioned on his experience — he has never appeared before the Constitutional Court and appeared once before the Supreme Court of Appeal as a junior advocate.
He denied that the NPA is in a dire state, saying there are prosecutors who work hard and that only certain parts of the authority are facing issues of factionalism. Mapoma continued, saying perceptions the NPA is struggling are created primarily by media reports that have misled the public.
A total of eleven candidates have been shortlisted. The interviews continue at Union Buildings.