The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has received a R9.5 million funding boost from the German government to help create a “new structure” as part of its rebuilding process.
In a statement on Tuesday, NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said the new structure will be located in National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Shamila Batohi’s office.
Through it, members of the public will be able to directly lodge complaints about allegations of improper conduct involving NPA staff. This is part a “critical drive to achieve the NPA’s strategic pillars of public credibility, independence, professionalism and accountability.”
Ngwema added, “[For] over a decade or so, the NPA was entangled in allegations of ‘state capture’ as some of its prominent members were accused of being appointed into leadership positions to weaken the NPA and to act in the interest of certain political and personal influences.
“These allegations and perceptions of politically motivated changes in leadership and the allegations of impropriety against some of its senior leaders led to an exodus of skilled staff, the freezing of new appointments, as well as a virtual end to its professional development and training programmes.”
The new structure will be established through technical assistance provided by the Institute for Security Studies, Ngwema added.
Despite Batohi’s appointment in 2018 and the establishment of a new Special Investigative Directorate headed by Advocate Hermione Cronje, the NPA is battling to overcome skills and capacity shortages.
To help address this challenge, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced an additional R2.4 billion budgetary allocation for the NPA, Special Investigating Unit and Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) in February.
“This will enable the appointment of approximately 800 investigators and 277 prosecutors who will assist with, among other things, the clearing the backlog of cases such as those emanating from the [Deputy Chief Justice Raymond] Zondo commission [into state capture],” he said.
In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa also signed an amendment to the Zondo commission’s regulations to allow NPA to access information gathered by the commission, thus making it easier to build cases against implicated individuals.
The move also allows NPA to absorb the commission’s investigative skills as it begins to wind up its work.
“[Those] skills are very rare. There’s very few that have these skills to investigate very complex corruption matters. What we found is that, in government, the investigation and prosecution skills have been hollowed out in recent times,” Batohi explained in an interview last year.