News / South Africa / Courts

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
6 Feb 2019
6:03 am

Three days in and Batohi already butts heads with government

Ilse de Lange

The new NPA boss and the justice minister disagree over what prosecutors should be paid.

File image. Current National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Shamila Batohi, 2018 in Pretoria. Picture: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe

Barely three days into office, new National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi already seems to have bumped heads with Justice Minister Michael Masutha about the salaries of some of the country’s top prosecutors, who earn considerably less than the juniors they supervise.

Batohi yesterday sent a letter to the state attorney saying her office would no longer oppose an application by the Public Servants Association aimed at forcing the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to improve the salaries of deputy directors of public prosecutions and chief prosecutors.

But Masutha and the director-general of the justice department obtained a court order to postpone the application, saying they needed time to consult with Batohi to try to persuade her not to withdraw her opposition, in order for them to present a “united front”.

Granting a postponement, Judge Wendy Hughes said in the High Court in Pretoria it appeared as if Batohi, who came into office on February 1, had not consulted the minister or director-general. This resulted in a conflict of interest as the minister and director-general, who relied on opposing papers filed by the NPA and had the same legal representative, seemed set to forge ahead with their opposition.

The South African Society of State Advocates for years battled to improve the salaries of prosecutors until the unions and government finally agreed in 2007 to an improved salary dispensation for professionals within the civil service, following which prosecutors were “translated” to the new salary dispensation.

Deputy directors of public prosecutions and chief prosecutors were left out in the cold.

The NPA promised to look into their position and numerous undertakings were given that their salaries and cost of living adjustments would improve, but that never happened, resulting in some of the colleagues they were supervising earning considerably more than them.

When former national director Shaun Abrahams reversed an undertaking by predecessor Mzxolisi Nxasana to improve salaries in 2015, the Public Servants Association, along with retired senior prosecutor Retha Meintjes and several colleagues, lodged grievances and launched legal challenges in the labour court and the high court, which are pending.

– ilsedl@citizen.co.za

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