PRETORIA, November 16 – The final candidate, of the 11 advocates interviewed for the position of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) on Friday, faced a barrage of questions regarding accusations of racism previously levelled against her over a decade ago when she headed prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal.
Netherlands-based Advocate Shamila Batohi told the eight-member panel led by Energy Minister Jeff Radebe that she still does not understand why she was accused of racism by her subordinates.
“Those were the allegations. Those allegations were that racism, but what underlies those allegations I don’t know because they were not specific, as in, you did this on this particular day or you treated somebody differently. I could have explained, but there was none of that detail,” said Batohi.
“I know that the allegation of racism was made by what underlined that allegation, I have no idea.”
Advocate Lawrence Manye, one of the eight panellists, then asked Batohi if she has faced similar accusations at her current job at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Batohi responded emphatically: “No. Never. I’ve been there for nine years now”.
She told the panel that she leads a diverse “small team” of five people comprised of a Dutch male, a Russian female, a Malaysian female, and a Ugandan female.
Batohi has been a senior legal advisor to the prosecutor at the ICC, in the Hague, since 2009.
Another panellist, Advocate Jaap Cilliers had earlier asked Batohi if she had “serious problems with staff members” during her tenure as NDPP in KwaZulu-Natal.
She responded: “There was a time when staff members accused me of racism. It was public. It was in the newspaper. So the short answer is yes. People make all kind of accusations for different reasons. For me, it’s the past. If I am National Director [those things won’t matter to me anymore, because, you know, people say things at a certain time. You just got to let it go.
“As the new National Director [of Public Prosecutions] I will have to simply move forward. Looking backwards will only take an institution back. I think it’s really important that, if I’m the National Director, put that aside. The motivation for that [accusations] it doesn’t matter to me anymore.”
Batohi said, “certain staff members were not happy”. She said the resolution of the matter was not satisfactory.
“Nothing was actually resolved,” she said.
Batohi said a report from the facilitator who attempted to resolve the KZN matter recommended that she attends anger management courses.
“I don’t think I had problems controlling my anger, but that was one of the recommendations. I can’t really think of anything beyond that,” she said.
Lutendo Sigogo, a panellist from the Black Lawyers Society also quizzed Batohi about the racism allegations.
Batohi said the accusations had shocked her.
“From a personal perspective, I didn’t have a problem with staff members of any race. I treated them all fairly. I treated them no differently from another race. For me, it was an absolute shock and a confusion. I was absolutely horrified when those allegations were made. I still don’t understand what those allegations related to,” she said.
Eleven candidates have been interviewed over three days by the eight-member panel led by Radebe at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The Democratic Alliance’s Advocate Glynnis Bteytenbach had been on the list of people to be interviewed for the top post, but she pulled out of the race.
The panel was requested to identify potential candidates, establish that they meet the required criteria, conduct the interviews with potential candidates, and then recommend at least three candidates to the Ramaphosa.
– African News Agency (ANA)