The Senior public prosecutions officials should not be in the business of seeking “popularity or being loved”. Instead, they should think of ways to be respected for doing the right thing, executive secretary for the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution Lawson Naidoo told the Mokgoro inquiry on Wednesday.
The inquiry, headed by retired Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, is tasked with establishing whether suspended deputy prosecutions boss Nomgcobo Jiba and special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi are fit to hold office.
Naidoo told the presiding panel that: “A more stringent test should be applied when contemplating a removal from the office of either a deputy national director of public prosecution or another senior official,” Naidoo told the panel.
He said the integrity of prosecutors should be beyond reproach, and they must also be seen to act without fear, favour or prejudice.
Naidoo also said a prosecutor’s task was “demanding and involves discretionary powers which require strength of will and unswerving resolution in the teeth of what may be…pressure, especially from members of the national executive”.
Officials must ‘resist pressure’
Asked by Mokgoro what the president needed to take into account when appointing the national director or their deputy in order to respond to the notion of “fit and proper”, he said a “test must be conducted in relation to the office concerned [and] the importance of the powers of that office must be taken to account”.
He also said that public perceptions could not be ignored when one considers issues of independence, adding that taking decisions was not about a popularity contest.
“Sometimes one needs to go against the grain in order to do the right thing. That is the kind of strength that is required to resist pressure. One needs to take the public into confidence regarding why certain decisions were taken,” he said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa instituted the inquiry and in a letter to Jiba and Mrwebi he said: “I have taken into account the serious nature of allegations that you are unfit to be in so high an office, where the work of our criminal justice system is central to the critical and pressing matter of all prosecutions, especially prosecution of corruption cases and safeguard of our public purse.
“You hold a senior position with influence over a large swathe of the NPA. It is the interest of the NPA’s image as a whole that I consider here, and of the integrity of an enquiry (sic) that must result in the clearest and most convincing conclusions about the integrity, and sound leadership of the NPA.”
The inquiry continues on Thursday when Freedom under Law is expected to make submissions.