/ 4 December 2018

The first woman NDPP: Shamila Batohi is the new NPA boss

Shamila Batohi
Shamila Batohi (Alaister Russell/Sunday Times/Gallo)

Advocate Shamila Batohi, a former senior legal advisor to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has been announced as the National Director of Public Prosecutions, taking over the reins of the National Prosecuting Authority in February.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, after receiving recommendations from his advisory panel, announced Batohi’s appointment, necessitated by a Constitutional Court judgement which declared former prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams’ appointment invalid.

“I accept with gratitude the opportunity to serve as national director of public prosecutions. My only obligation is to serve the country with humility and with dedication to the best of my ability. Each one of us … must be ready to sacrifice the necessary to fight the good fight. Our country needs us,” Batohi said in an impassioned address following the announcement.

She also noted that her appointment was a recognisable moment for women in South Africa, and the contribution women have made to a just society.

“Let us not forget that this is also a historic moment for women. It is recognised by our president that the role of women in the in the pursuit of equality, justice and a fair society is important,” Batohi said.

She concluded her remarks by saying: “There is a lot of work to be done.”

The recent challenges crippling the NPA — including allegations of political interference in prosecutorial decisions — did not go unmentioned by Ramaphosa. He said that while the NPA has struggled to fulfil its mandate with rigour and independence, there are people inside the authority who are working hard for justice.

“Despite the many challenges the NPA has faced in the past, we know that there are women and men of great ability as well as experience and commitment within the national prosecuting authority who are dedicated to doing their job,” Ramaphosa said.

“I’m confident that Advocate Batohi possesses all the attributes of a capable national director of public prosecutions,” he said.

Ramaphosa commended Batohi saying that throughout her “distinguished career” she had shown herself to be a “fit and proper person”. Batohi began her career as a junior prosecutor in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1986. She steadily excelled to become the director of public prosecutions in the province and was seconded to work in an investigative task unit established by Nelson Mandela.

“As the NPA Act requires, she has the experience, the confidence and the integrity to be entrusted with the responsibility of being the next national director of public prosecutions,” Ramaphosa said.

Batohi, who has spent recent years working at the Hague where she was an advisor to the prosecutor at the ICC, described the NPA as a house on fire. The goal now, she said, would be to restore justice in the aftermath of state capture.

“The entire country is almost like a victim and we need to actually work together,” Batohi said.

“Today, your NDPP stands with you and together we stand for justice and the nation,” Batohi said.