Top prosecutor Gerrie Nel has been appointed as head of lobby group AfriForum’s new private prosecuting unit following his shock resignation from the National Prosecuting Authority.
South African legislation legislation makes private prosecution possible in cases where the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decides not to prosecute someone suspected of an offence.
Addressing a hastily called media conference at AfriForum’s offices this afternoon, Nel said he had decided to accept the position at AfriForum because he was concerned about the perception of the NPA’s tendency to selective prosecutions and that everyone was seemingly not equal before the law.
“I believe in the supreme authority of the law. AfriForum’s newly founded private prosecuting unit gives me the opportunity within civilian society to help ensure that everyone, irrespective of position, is equal before the law.
“AfriForum and I are now in a position to prosecute ourselves corrupt persons who are not prosecuted by the NPA,” he said. AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said Nel’s appointment was a giant step ahead in AfriForum’s battle against corruption and the pillaging of taxpayers’ money.
He said he trusted that Nel’s appointment would send a clear message to corrupt politicians and officials on national, provincial and local government levels that they can no longer be indemnified from prosecution due to their political contacts.
“Corrupt persons must realise that no one is above the law, not even the country’s president,” Kriel said in a statement. Neither Kriel nor Nel wanted to comment on the possibility that President Jacob Zuma will be “their number one target”.
Nel said his task now was to get the unit off the ground and to make 100 percent sure that where they decided to go ahead with private prosecutions that there was a proper case.
This would take time and they would certainly not start prosecuting people within the next few months, he said. He stressed that they will not engage in the “unacceptable practice” of trial-by-media.
“We will prosecute our cases in court,” he said.
Nel stressed that he did not have a personal axe to grind or any political agenda. He said South Africa had brilliant prosecutors and he had trust in the criminal justice system.
It was only where the NPA decided not to prosecute that the newly created unit would consider stepping in, he said. Asked about reports that Nel was being investigated by the Hawks for his alleged involvement in the so-called Sars “rogue unit”, Kriel said they would fully support Nel if the “spurious” charges were revived.
Nel said he had never discussed his appointment with controversial private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, who joined AfriForum last year, but said documents placed before him by O’Sullivan would certainly form part of the decision if they should proceed with private prosecutions.
Nel said he would now start with a process to involve other experts in the unit to ensure that AfriForum had the strongest possible ability to intervene where the system of criminal law neglected to let justice prevail.
Asked about the state’s ongoing attempt to appeal against former Paralympic athlete’s Oscar Pistorius’ six-year sentence for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Nel said he would not be involved, but was confident that his juniors were more than competent to see that justice was done.
Kriel said even though it was very expensive to prosecute privately, they organisation had 180 000 members who made monthly contributions and they would be able to fund private prosecutions.
“Even if we just have a few cases, it will have a huge impact in solving the problem of selective prosecutions,” he said.
Nel stressed that any member of the public, and not just AfriForum members or Afrikaners, would be able to approach them.