There were high hopes for Shamila Batohi, the new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).
Yet, after two months in the job, there is no sign of action by her against any significant political figures whose corrupt activities are exposed in the media.
At this rate, she’ll soon be in breach of her oath of office, in which she pledged to “enforce the law of the Republic without fear, favour or prejudice”.
Enforcing the law without fear, favour or prejudice should include not being afraid of political consequences of legally sound decisions.
Why then are there no charges against Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu in the open-and-shut case where VBS Mutual Bank was looted? Why no hint of arrest of Jacob Zuma or any Guptas and their state-capture gang? Even the Ramaphosa family is not free of the Bosasa stench.
The various commissions remind us daily of the crookery that has been going on. Yet media coverage is no substitute for justice. It’s a distraction, creating the impression that something more consequential is happening, while scoundrels walk free.
For some of us, commission fatigue has set in. We want to see arrests, prosecutions and sentencing. Instead, we have more of the same: shocking disclosures but no consequences.
Impunity is reinforced when political parties release their election candidate lists, with suspects in prominent, electable positions. A perfect example is ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, central character in the new book, Gangster State. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which Batohi heads, is knowingly allowing suspects to be elected to public office.
Could Batohi be afraid of political arrests, with elections a mere five weeks away? If so, she will in that respect be no better than any of her NDPP predecessors, none of whom completed their term of office.
There might never be a good time to arrest certain politicians, if all permutations are calculated. In 2014, the EFF won 25 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, where they have been involved in several scuffles. If the EFF win more seats in the next parliament, there is nothing to suggest their MPs will be gentler. Quite the opposite, in fact. So post-election arrests could be more disruptive than any steps taken now. Why wait? Justice delayed is justice denied.
And Section 237 of the Constitution says: “All constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay.”
By not prosecuting, the NPA is failing to uphold the rights of millions because we are not shielded from being governed by persons widely believed to be criminals.
The NPA is not the only institution which gives the impression of appeasing political bullies. The Human Rights Commission last month exonerated Malema and EFF general secretary Godrich Gardee on a series of hate speech complaints.
If you wear a red T-shirt, you can say whatever you like about Indians or whites, you can grow rich off money intended for the poor. You are untouchable. Looter continua.
Unless Batohi finds the courage to do the right thing without delay.