NPA will 'do what we need to do' - no matter what executive says: Batohi

15 October 2019 - 20:40 By Andisiwe Makinana
NDPP Shamila Batohi has responded to justice minister Ronald Lamola's plan to pardon jailed #FeesMustFall leader Kanya Cekeshe.
NDPP Shamila Batohi has responded to justice minister Ronald Lamola's plan to pardon jailed #FeesMustFall leader Kanya Cekeshe.
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

National director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi says prosecutors will not be deterred from doing their work with due diligence - despite decisions taken by members of the executive.

Batohi was responding to a question in parliament on whether justice minister Ronald Lamola's decision to back jailed #FeesMustFall leader Kanya Cekeshe would affect the morale of prosecutors and other authorities who had worked hard to secure the conviction.

Minutes after the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court dismissed Cekeshe’s bail application on Monday, Lamola tweeted: “We note the dismissal of both the leave to appeal and bail for Fees Must Fall activist Khaya Cekeshe by the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. We’re in the process of urgently assisting him with an application for presidential pardon or other legally available avenues."

Batohi said: “As far as the prosecutors are concerned, we know that notwithstanding in some instances what the executive might do, we need to do what we have to do."

She said while a number of students were arrested during the #FeesMustFall campaign, many of the less serious offences were withdrawn, while prosecutions proceeded in the more serious cases.

“Students have to behave responsibly. You cannot burn libraries or try to burn a police car with people in it. These are serious cases. As far as prosecutors are concerned, we will continue to do what we have to do,” she said.

Batohi explained that she had a very close working relationship with Lamola. She said the minister was “very committed” to the NPA's independence and supported it by providing the necessary resources and other support that the executive can give to the NPA.

“With regards to #FeesMustFall and the minister's tweet … this is not something that the minister hasn't mentioned previously,” she told MPs.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, a prosecutor by profession, had suggested that Lamola’s intervention would demoralise prosecutors and others whose job it was to ensure wrongdoing was punished.

“The NPA works quite hard to secure convictions, the police work hard to investigate matters and the judiciary works hard to do its job, and this results in convictions of people - for instance, for public violence and malicious damage to property, which we all agree are serious offences," she said.

"Then the minister of justice goes on record to tell us that he will do his best to assist such a person in obtaining an expungement and a pardon. How does this affect the morale of prosecutors and other players in the criminal justice system, who work every day to do their job and their work gets undone in a stroke of pen?”

Breytenbach wanted to know how Batohi would motivate them to continue doing their job and tell them that it's important “when it's clearly not always regarded as such”.

She suggested the same could happen in the cases of state capture.

“How are you going to motivate the prosecutors in matters that are difficult to prepare and prosecute when their work can be undone in a stroke of a pen? I find it astonishing that the person responsible for the administration of justice in this country can make such outbursts,” said Breytenbach about Lamola.

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