South Africa’s new chief prosecutor vowed Friday to fight political interference and corruption as she took office after years of scandal that have dogged the country’s legal system.
Respected lawyer Shamila Batohi was appointed as head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by President Cyril Ramaphosa after her predecessor was accused of improperly protecting former president Jacob Zuma.
Batohi told reporters that she took over the NPA “at a time of crisis, not only for the organisation, but for the rule of law in South Africa.”
“Perpetrators of crime and corruption within the state and private sector… your days of acting with impunity are numbered,” she said.
Batohi said she had received assurances from Ramaphosa that there would be no political interference in the state prosecutor’s work.
Batohi’s predecessor Shaun Abrahams was dubbed “Shaun the sheep” for his apparent loyalty to Zuma.
An ongoing enquiry into corruption under Zuma’s rule has heard evidence of systematic corruption, including monthly bribes paid to government and ruling ANC party figures by contracting companies to secure lucrative deals.
“The allegations are unprecedented in terms of the scope, nature and complexity of corruption,” Batohi said.
Batohi, the first female to occupy the role, is a former prosecutions chief in KwaZulu-Natal province and served as senior adviser to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2009.