The National Prosecuting Authority has bid farewell to one of its fiercest fighters for justice for abused women and children.
Retha Meintjes, the senior state prosecutor who helped to put one of South Africa’s worst serial killers, Moses Sithole, and “Modimolle Monster” Johan Kotze and many other abusers behind bars, will retire at the end of the month.
She is ending an illustrious career spanning about 47 years. Meintjes’ soft voice and delicate stature belies the steely determination, fierce fighting spirit, sharp intellect and sheer courage which saw her come to be described by prosecutors as a “monster slayer” and a “rock star”.
She also earned herself the epithet of “that bitch” after refusing to back down and insisting on the recusal of a judge she accused of bias who was presiding in one of the trials in which she prosecuted.
Advocate Elbie Leonard, a fellow deputy director of public prosecutions, on Friday recalled admiringly how Meintjes never allowed life to interfere with her dedication to her job.
She doggedly continued with trials despite a broken ankle, wearing an eyepatch after acid was thrown at her and in an advanced state of pregnancy, Leonard added.
She described Meintjes as a strong and vibrant trailblazer who was not afraid to ruffle feathers and successfully fought to have female advocates promoted.
She is still at the forefront of a legal battle for better salaries for state advocates.
Meintjes, a University of Pretoria law graduate, gained international recognition as a founding member of the International Society of Advocates and was instrumental in getting the South African Society of Advocates admitted as a member.
She was also a founding member and past president of the South African Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.
The society provides professionals active in the child abuse arena with a forum for the structured and systematic exchange of information.
Gauteng NPA director advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi said losing such a fount of knowledge and expertise, especially in the field of women and child abuse, was a sad loss for the NPA.
It came at a difficult time when they were unable to recruit or advertise positions and had experienced an exodus of senior prosecutors, Mzinyathi added.
Senior prosecutor George Baloyi, who helped Meintjes bring down Sithole, praised her for spearheading the establishment of the Hatfield Magistrate’s Court in Pretoria.
It now serves six police stations and will serve generations to come.
The ever-modest Meintjes described her years as a prosecutor as the most challenging, but also the most rewarding.
She said she was looking forward to reading thousands of books and working in her garden.
But she would miss reading the strange, often quirky representations, letters and statements which were part of her working life.