Prosecutor Nel's move is in the interests of justice - Times LIVE
   
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Mon May 29 22:46:44 SAST 2017

Prosecutor Nel's move is in the interests of justice

The Times Editorial | 2017-02-02 06:59:32.0
Top prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Photo file.
Image by: STRINGER / REUTERS

Top prosecutor Gerrie Nel's departure from the National Prosecuting Authority to head up an AfriForum-backed private prosecution team is set to shake up the justice system.

Much has been said about AfriForum's involvement, with suggestions that the private prosecutions team will be tainted with a political agenda.

This is inevitable. AfriForum occupies a particular space in public life and it is impossible for the new initiative not to wear this cloak. It is disingenuous to argue otherwise.

But that does not mean the prosecution team is doomed. Nel and his learned colleagues will have to present evidence in court which will be held up to the light and if it's found tainted their cases will fail.

It will be in their interests to ensure they proceed with a neutral application of the law and Nel, to his credit, has never done anything that suggests otherwise.

But the devil in this project is not in the AfriForum association but in the detail of successfully launching a private prosecution.

There are many challenges to be overcome.

While the Criminal Procedures Act allows for private prosecutions, they are rare and granted only in particular circumstances.

Only a private individual - or a body that has been given explicit statutory authority to prosecute - may pursue a private prosecution. This will no doubt be the first mountain Nel and his team will have to climb.

Further, a person applying for a private prosecution has to show a substantial interest in the matter to be prosecuted.

This will be a major hurdle. How, for example, would an individual show a substantial, direct interest should Nel target Jacob Zuma and his 700-odd corruption charges?

Challenges aside, this initiative should be welcomed, if only for the assault it offers on the impunity that is seeping into our justice system.

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