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Pistorius prosecutor ‘the bulldog’ resigns

South African prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who came to worldwide attention for securing the murder conviction of Oscar Pistorius, has resigned to join a lobby group.

Nel’s forensic questioning and ferocious style attracted global interest as the so-called “blade runner” trial was broadcast around the world after double amputee Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius claimed he mistook Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, for a burglar when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013, a claim that Nel hotly contested.

“You killed a person, that’s what you did! You shot and killed her, won’t you take responsibility for that?” he said during the trial.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku confirmed Nel’s departure to AFP.

“We can confirm that prosecutor Gerrie Nel handed in his resignation (on) January 30,” he said.

Nel, who was dubbed “the bulldog” during his 36-year career, told a press conference he will join Afrikaner lobby group AfriForum to pursue prosecutions on their behalf.

South Africa’s Afrikaner community are descendants of the first European settlers in the country. Many members of the community claim they have faced discrimination at schools, universities and the workplace since the end of apartheid.

– ‘Aiming high’ –

AfriForum is a mainly white Afrikaner civil rights group that lobbies on issues including farm murders, hate speech and language rights, and is often critical of the African National Congress party, which has ruled South Africa for over two decades.

“I think it’s a brilliant new concept and I think it’s necessary,” Nel said.

“AfriForum will fund all the prosecutions. We’re aiming high.”

AfriForum’s chief executive Kallie Kriel said that “nobody is above the law” after he was asked whether President Jacob Zuma might be one of those subject to a private prosecution.

Zuma is facing some 783 criminal charges relating to allegations of corruption, racketeering and money laundering over a multi-billion dollar arms procurement deal by the government in the late 1990s.

In July, Pistorius was given a six-year jail term after an appeals court upgraded his manslaughter conviction to murder.

He had earlier been given a five-year sentence and was released on parole after one year.

Nel led the state’s criticism of Pistorius’ six-year sentence, calling it “shockingly lenient and disturbingly inappropriate”.

Pistorius killed his 35-year-old partner at the peak of his fame, following his historic performance in London in 2012 when he became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level.

Nel was already well known in South Africa before taking the case but became renowned during the Pistorius trial due to his sharp eye for detail and his take-no-prisoners approach.

His interrogations prompted at least one complaint to South Africa’s Human Rights Commission — which later found Nel had no case to answer.

The judge in the Pistorius case, Thokozile Masipa, had to interrupt proceedings to say “restrain yourself, Mr Nel” while he was scrutinising witnesses.