Editorial: We are rooting for Batohi

Every week the Mail & Guardian shines a light on corruption and maladministration in the public sector. These stories are important. Just as important are stories about corruption, maladministration and malfeasance in the private sector, which we seek to tackle with the same rigour. 

Because corruption, unlike Eskom, is not a state monopoly. But, in the act of exposing people and practices in the public service who are wrong, we neglect the many, many people who are quietly getting on with their jobs.

We ought to take note of the many good people in the public service. In fact, there are many good people in the civil service whose names we will never know who work every day to ensure that the project called South Africa remains on track, however wobbly at times. And it is their work most often that ensures this remains the only place we can call home.

Their efforts are often stymied by politics, corruption and stubborn inefficiencies. It is as true in Eskom, Denel and PetroSA as it is in your local municipality and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The NPA has particularly been a site of inertia driven by politicians keen to usurp organs of the state for their own use.

In the appointment of Shamila Batohi as the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) this week, there is an opportunity to begin asserting good leadership in a rudderless institution. Her appointment is also an indication once more that good civil servants do exist.

And it is important to note that in her address accepting the position she spoke eloquently about the challenges that her new job entails. Perhaps more importantly to the millions of South Africans watching and listening to her, she fuelled the hope that all is not lost.

When our lights are flickering and politicians are bickering, it is hope that needs rekindling.

The task of securing South Africa for future generations is immense. It begins with ensuring that those in key institutions are united behind the objective of a state that is just, and to ensure that its people are free.

In her interview for the job Batohi said one of the first tasks for the incoming NDPP was to dismantle factions in the prosecuting authority. “Factions generally thrive around ideas or thoughts about certain things. So, I think the first thing one needs to do is to try to figure it out what is it that’s causing this division within the institution.”

She also said that, when the demotivated prosecutors at the NPA see their organisation is back on the right track, their morale would change.

She wants to establish a directorate specifically tasked to deal with corruption; it would include civil society, the private sector and the auditor general to assist with prosecutions. “It has to be all hands on deck. It’s got to be about giving without expecting anything in return,” she said.

“We in the NPA have important work to do, which includes devoting our efforts to holding accountable those who have corrupted our institutions, who have betrayed the public good and the values of our Constitution for private gain, especially those in the most privileged positions of government and corporate power.”

We are rooting for her — and for the many civil servants who devote their best years to the betterment of our country.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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