No place for corruption in the NPA

National Prosecuting Authority National Director of Public Prosecutions (NPA NDPP), Advocate Shamila Batohi, has warned the prosecutorial body will not allow any corruption or dishonesty in its ranks.

The NDPP was addressing graduands who completed the NPA’s 2021 and 2022 Aspirant Prosecutors’ Programme.

The graduands – who are more than 600 – will be absorbed into the ranks of the NPA to become prosecutors.

“Defending [prosecutorial] independence requires that as prosecutors, we uphold the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of our lives, not just when we are at work but even in our private lives. We need to have the highest standards of integrity and to ensure that we always adhere to our code of conduct.

“As long as you do that, as your National Director I will always have your back but if you don’t, we will have a fair process and there is no place for corrupt or dishonest prosecutors. You will be fired after a fair process.

“We should be so grateful that we are here. Don’t mess it up because I guarantee you, many of you will be approached because that is the way it is now. There is no such thing as a free lunch, so we have to be very careful about these things,” she said.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, who also addressed the graduands, emphasised that in prosecution, the new recruits sit with a “double edged sword” to either help or harm society.

“[At] the beginning of this journey, the NPA had 11 000 applications in 2022. Only 291 made it to the end. In other words, of the 2022 cohort, there 10 709 people who wanted to be seated where you are seated today. You must remember this one day when a high profile case lands on your table for prosecution… [or] when someone approaches to make a matter go away.

“Like all viruses, corruption does not come like a thief in the night. At first it starts with the small cases, like speeding fines, instead of bring them before a magistrate, you are offered something small to strike it off the roll.

“So it is clear that you sit with a double edge sword in your hands. If you swing it in the wrong direction, it will erode the rule of law and orchestrate irretrievable harm in our communities. If you swing it the right way, it enforces the rule of law and creates a just society,” he said.

A new cohort

Batohi laid out to the newly minted prosecutors how they are expected to conduct themselves.

“As you join the NPA, we expect prosecutors who are courageous and who will never compromise their professional independence for any kind of expediency…no matter who it is — political, business, friends or family. We also expect prosecutors who are committed to ongoing learning. Your attitude determines your altitude.

“As much as it might be challenging for you to confront new challenges, remember that preparation is key. We expect that every one of you will show collegiality to fellow colleagues including clerks at the court, orderlies and people who clean your offices.

“Remember… we are humble civil servants. We serve the people of South Africa with humility. So as lawyers of the people, you have a duty to serve members of the public, and to keep them informed. Remember, we do not target individuals, we follow the evidence,” she said.

The NDPP encouraged the graduands to take pride in the work that they will undertake.

“Make us all proud, make your country proud. You are the last line of defence for ordinary men and women in South Africa, who look to you in the NPA and us as prosecutors to protect them. You have the absolute honour of joining the NPA at a time when the country somehow sees the NPA as the hope for the future.

“You have the opportunity to one day say to your friends, your colleagues, your children [that you] were part of the [NPA] that helped to pull back our country from the precipice [and] helped to take the country back from the clutches of corrupt people and organised criminals,” Batohi said.

Source: South African Government News Agency