A shortlist of candidates who will potentially head up a new investigative directorate within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), is currently being vetted for approval.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his State of the Nation address in February that the directorate would be established following a request from National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi.
The directorate has been tasked with investigating allegations made at the Zondo commission into allegations of state capture, the commission of inquiry into governance at SARS, as well as the Public Investment Corporation inquiry.
But it is not only limited to allegations arising from these inquiries.
The NDPP may also refer cases involving serious, high-profile or complex corruption.
The establishment of the directorate was promulgated last Friday.
This means that all that is holding up the work of the new unit is the appointment of a director.
Who is in the running?
It’s been reported that Batohi is lining up a “big hitter” to fill this role.
The frontrunner to head up the directorate is Cape Town advocate Hermione Cronje.
She has been on retainer for the past month and a half, assisting Batohi to set up the structure of the new directorate and to panel beat the legislation and terms of reference that will govern the scope of its work.
It’s understood Batohi personally requested that Cronje come on secondment from the bar to assist with this important project.
Cronje would not say whether she had been asked to be the director but confirmed that she has been involved with the setup.
Cronje does have the requisite experience to do the job.
Prior to joining the bar six years ago, she spent 12 years prosecuting cases as part of the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) under Willie Hofmeyr.
Hofmeyr has recently been reappointed head of the AFU.
Cronje headed up the Cape division of the AFU and was one of the first members of the NPA.
Currently acting as caretaker of all ‘state capture’ cases arising from the Zondo Commission and also co-ordinating all organised crime cases, is advocate Andrea Johnson.
It is clear that this is an interim position, but she is expected to play a prominent role going forward. Johnson is best known for being part of the successful prosecuting team against paralympian Oscar Pistorius, working along with advocate Gerrie Nel.
She also prosecuted former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi for corruption.
Batohi has also asked Pretoria chief prosecutor Matric Luphondo to keep a watching brief at the Zondo commission and to follow up leads from testimony there.
A memorandum of understanding between the NPA and the Zondo commission has been signed, allowing them to share information.
‘The biggest thing everyone is waiting for’
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke has confirmed that a shortlist has been drawn up and the vetting process is currently under way.
Ultimately, who will be appointed to head up the directorate is the president’s decision.
“It is the biggest priority. We know it is the biggest thing everyone is waiting for.”
She said an official announcement would be made in due course.
An insider who has intimate knowledge of the process says that Batohi is treating the appointment with the utmost urgency.
“It’s very high up on the list of priorities and there is a lot of work happening in the background. The establishment of the directorate is dependent on the appointment of a director. So the sooner that happens, the better. It’s that appointment that is holding everything up.” — News24