Wed, 20 Nov 2019

Batohi not going into NPA top job untainted

05 Dec 2018, 22:37 GMT+10

While the appointment of the first female National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) has been widely welcomed, advocate Shamila Batohi does not enter the position free of any taint.

Not only does she have the massive task of restoring credibility and trust in the institution, but she will also have to deal with the shadow of racism allegations hanging over her head.

When she starts in her new position next year, Batohi's plate will already be full as she works to restore the confidence of the people of South Africa in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), dealing ruthlessly with corruption.

The allegations of racism emerged during her interview last month, although she was adamant that the allegations against her are "in the past".

READ: OVERVIEW: #NDPPInterviews candidate says allegations of racism against her are 'in the past'

Batohi was announced as the new NPA boss on Tuesday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

She won the hearts of the panel and the country during her interview when she said she was prepared to be the director of the NPA, also describing the institution as a "mess" and a "house on fire".

Making history

Batohi, who is expected to commence her duties in February 2019, has been a senior legal adviser to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court since 2009.

She was the first woman to be appointed as a director of public prosecutions when she took up the job in KwaZulu-Natal. She makes history again when she takes up the role of the country's first female NPA boss.

ALSO READ: Introducing Shamila Batohi: The country's first female NPA boss

Batohi is also known for leading the prosecution of disgraced Proteas cricket captain Hansie Cronje at the King commission of inquiry.

During her interview, she told the panel that there was a group of staff members who were unhappy, but she claimed that she did not know why she was accused of racism, as the allegations were not specific.

She said the incident was confined to the Pietermaritzburg office and not throughout the province. She, however, told the panel that it was unclear why she was accused of racism.

'It is in the past, let's move forward'

Batohi did not want to address the issue of racism fully, instead saying she found it difficult to address the issue as it had the potential of opening up old wounds.

"If I get into the position it is something that I would say... it is in the past, let's move forward. But I think it is important for me to explain to the panel the situation here because it seems to suggest that there was low morale," she said at the time.

"There was a time when staff members made allegations of racism against me. It was public. It was in the newspaper."

She said people make allegations for all kinds of reasons.

"People say things at a certain time and you've just got to let it go and as the new national director I will have to simply move forward and looking backward will only take an institution back. It doesn't matter to me anymore."

'I treated them all fairly'

Batohi revealed that the matter was never resolved and a facilitator tasked to look into the matter recommended that she attend anger management training.

She told the panel she did not think she had problems controlling her anger and that the racism allegations were never put to her.

Batohi further claimed that she did not have any problems with staff members of any race in the office.

"I treated them all fairly," she told the panel.

"For me it was an absolute shock. I was absolutely horrified when those allegations were made.

"I still don't understand what was going on because from what I understand, I empowered people who were previously disadvantaged in that particular office."

It is unclear how the matter will be dealt with further when Batohi takes up her new position, where she will have to ensure that the institution overcomes deep divisions that the country's history imposed on individuals.

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