Opinion

Batohi must have the guts to act decisively before May 8

31 March 2019 - 00:04


So I hear from a reliable source that somewhere inside the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) a decision has been taken not to cause any commotion before the May 8 elections and, therefore, not to pursue any charges against anyone involved in the fraud and pillage at VBS Mutual Bank.
Put another way, there will be no arresting, handcuffing, perp-walking, charging and then releasing on bail of Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu, nor of former Limpopo ANC Youth League leader Kabelo Matsepe, all three of whom demonstrably benefited from the looting at VBS.
I don't know who gets to make sweeping calls like this. It can't be President Cyril Ramaphosa because he isn't allowed to tell new NPA boss Shamila Batohi what to do. You can see why he might want it played cool, though. Arresting and charging Malema now would be political dynamite, sending voters rushing from the ANC to his defence. Or maybe not.
There's a deeper reason, though. The NPA is, we all know, deeply infiltrated by Jacob Zuma's acolytes. Those tiny few prosecutors who stand on their own feet are, frankly, frightened of what might happen to them or their families if they touched Malema or the others.
I would be scared, too. But if my information is correct then Batohi is about to make a fatal mistake. The EFF is already expecting action against its leadership. Just look at the vitriol they've thrown at Ed Kieswetter now that he's been named as the new South African Revenue Service commissioner.
And VBS is a prepacked easy-win case. A trainee could handle it. Not moving now would be to commit the same fatal error that Bulelani Ngcuka, the former NPA head, and then Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy made when they based their discussion on whether to arrest Jacob Zuma on the politics ahead of the ANC's elective conference in Polokwane in December 2007. They hesitated and Zuma won. The rest is history.
If the decision is to wait out the election, Batohi will face a much stronger Malema than she faces now. Now his party has just more than 6% of the national vote. After May 8 it could be double that and he may be deeply involved in provincial coalition talks with the ANC or the Democratic Alliance in the heart of our economy - Gauteng.
So there'll never be a good time, Shamila. You just have to be strong, be your own person and no matter how scared you might be, you cannot play politics any more in the NPA. Get moving. If the president asks you to hold off, tell him to get out of your way.
There surely has to be enough prima facie evidence to charge Brian Molefe for transgressions at Transnet, Matshela Koko for giving Eskom's R650m to the Guptas for free, Markus Jooste for even the tiniest little related-party deal committed on home soil.
You don't have to complicate things. Charge them with enough to send them to jail. It shouldn't take much. And if Cyril Ramaphosa's son took dirty money from Bosasa (we know he did), then charge him too.
But news, or rather, rumours, from the NPA is worrying. Batohi has known since the start of last December that she had this job. She and Ramaphosa decided then that they would create a powerful investigating directorate in the NPA, a position free from the constraint of having to report to any of the four NPA deputy heads. You would have thought she would have immediately been able to appoint someone once the president gave her the official go-ahead last week. But 14 days later, nothing. Has something gone wrong?
Worse, it seems the dreaded Nomgcobo Jiba, one of the NPA deputies planted there by Zuma, may win in both the judicial commission of inquiry into her fitness to hold office as well as in the action brought by the General Council of the Bar to prevent her practising as a lawyer (and, thereby, preventing a return to the NPA).
Batohi, I hear, is not making many friends at work. People complain she is disdainful and demanding. You can sort of imagine why, given the record of the people she now has to lead, but she has to find a way of making this work. One way to do that is to do something right, and difficult, together. Like the whole NPA doing its job without fear or favour and without regard to anyone for whom any of its actions might be inconvenient.

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