Time for impunity is over, NPA head Shamila Batohi warns
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shamila Batohi has warned that the days of acting with impunity by those who break the law are now “limited”.
Batohi was addressing the parliament portfolio committee for justice and correctional services against the backdrop of high-profile arrests relating to the multimillion-rand asbestos tender in the Free State.
Her address was part of the NPA's presentation of its annual report on Wednesday.
“The wheels of justice are turning. It's been slow and there have been events in the past week that shows that this is the case [that there is improvement],” she said.
“But chair, let us be frank and candid. This is one tiny, tiny pinpoint of a massive iceberg. There are still huge challenges in this regard.”
She said that after an anti-corruption workshop held last year, directors of public prosecutions were asked to prioritise cases. In total, 33 were identified.
“What is important to note is in addition to the 33 cases, we engaged with the DPCI [Hawks] and they gave us a list. It's a total of 87 cases that we are focusing on. And today, 26 cases since April 2020 have been enrolled — those that meet this criteria we are talking about,” said Batohi.
She said though 26 may not be a big number, it showed that the wheels of justice were turning.
“In the past, these cases might never have seen the inside of a courtroom and the fact that these cases are now beginning to come to the court shows that things are changing and that the days of impunity are changing.”
Impending budget cuts
Batohi warned, however, about a threat of impending budget cuts facing the NPA, which may threaten to derail its work.
“Given the demands on the NPA, and the crisis we face in SA now because of the impact on the economy, we really have to be careful that the NPA does not lose any of the money that it received,” she said.
If there is any money taken from the NPA ... we will not be able to address the huge demands.Shamila Batohi
“We are concerned. We have been having engagements with the Treasury, because if there is any money taken from the NPA, it will definitely ... we will not be able to address the huge demands on the NPA.”
Tebogo Sethabela, the acting head of financial management, said the NPA was advised by the Treasury that it was doing spending reviews because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The budget cut will impact on the process of recruitment that the NPA has undertaken ... while the NPA can absorb the current budget cut within the baseline, for the outer years it will have a serious impact.
“If you look at the outer years, 2021/22, we will have a deficit of R330m. If you also look at 2022/23, you will then realise that we will have a R401m deficit,” said Sethabela.
He said they had urged the National Treasury to not consider cuts on the NPA.
Batohi said the NPA needed more resources than it currently had and the impending cuts were a serious challenge.