Bernadette Wicks
Senior court reporter
3 minute read
9 Dec 2021
5:14 am

Batohi mum on reasons behind Investigating Directorate Cronje’s resignation

Bernadette Wicks

Since the news broke last week, there’s been speculation a strained relationship between Cronje and Batohi was to blame.

Head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate (ID), advocate Hermione Cronje. Picture: ELIZABETH SEJAKE/RAPPORT

National Director of Public Prosecution Shamila Batohi has remained mum on the reasons behind Investigating Directorate (ID) head Hermione Cronje’s decision to resign, even in the face of a grilling from parliament.

Batohi and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola were called to appear before the justice portfolio committee yesterday to address various issues – including the recent news of Cronje’s pending exit.

Since the news broke last week, there’s been speculation a strained relationship between Cronje and Batohi was to blame.

But Batohi has repeatedly denied this – denying, too, reports the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is in crisis and insisting changes in leadership are “healthy”.

The committee yesterday grilled her on the issue. The ANC’s Qubudile Dyantyi said if interpersonal issues weren’t the reason for Cronje’s departure, there had to be “serious structural issues” at play.

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The Democratic Alliance’s Glynnis Breytenbach said she wasn’t convinced “that everything is hunky dory, there
are no issues, her leaving is nothing odd and that it’s healthy to change horses mid-stream”.

“We don’t know why she left. We’re left to speculate along with everyone else and the national director is not telling us,” she says.

“It is concerning when somebody of the calibre of Advocate Cronje abandons her project – one which she has worked very hard on and put a great deal of time, at great personal costs, into.”

But Batohi stuck to her guns – admitting there were “tensions” and “professional conflicts” – but insisting both she and Cronje were concerned only with the best interests of the country.

She pointed only to “a whole range of issues” saying they had agreed it was in everybody’s best interest to “part ways”.

Batohi and Lamola also faced questions around the NPA having missed the 2 December deadline it had committed to make a decision on charging anyone over the 1985 deaths “the Cradock Four” at the hands of the apartheid state.

Batohi said the delay in coming to a decision was after private lawyers for the victims’ families had identified issues that required “further investigations”.

She said the state had indicated to the lawyers of the families that this would require more time but it appears this was left to the last minute and the message didn’t reach the families until after the fact.

On the broader issue of delays in prosecuting these types of crime, Batohi admitted up until now SA “as a whole has failed in terms of holding accountable those responsible for atrocities committed during the apartheid era”.

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But she was adamant this work was now a priority – pointing to the recent creation of a “dedicated capacity”.

The committee didn’t appear convinced, though. “The question we should all ask ourselves is whether we’ve met the threshold in dealing with the deaths of those who lost their lives in pursuit of our democracy.

And the answer is a very painful ‘no’,” justice portfolio committee chair Gratitude Magwanishe said, following the briefing.

The committee now wants quarterly updates on NPA’s progress on these cases.

It also wants to meet with Lamola early next year for an update on the appointment of a judge to chair an inquiry in line with the High Court in Johannesburg’s 2019 judgment in which it ordered an investigation into political interference in these prosecutions.

– bernadettew@citizen.co.za