NPA boss Shamila Batohi says prosecutors will continue to do what they have to do in bringing to book students who committed serious crimes during the Fees Must Fall protest.
Batohi was responding to questions from members of parliament’s portfolio committee on justice this afternoon after delivering the NPA’s annual report for the last financial year.
MPs asked Batohi if an intervention by Justice and Correctional Services minister Ronald Lamola in the case of jailed student activist Kanya Cekeshe would not lead to “low morale,’ among prosecutors.
“I should say that the new minister and I work very closely together. He is very committed to the independence of the NPA and also to supporting the NPA in terms of the necessary resources and other support that the executive can give to the NPA. So this is not something that the minister hasn’t mentioned previously,” Batohi said.
Read: Shamila Batohi: The NPA will be a trusted and credible institution again
“As far as the prosecutors are concerned, we know that notwithstanding in some instances what the executive might do, we need to do what we have to do. With regard to the Fees Must Fall, it was before my time but my colleagues have advised me that there was a number of students arrested and many of the less serious offenses were withdrawn and it was only the more serious ones which we proceeded to prosecute. Students have to be responsible in the sense that you cannot burn libraries or try to burn a police car with people in it. These are serious cases so these will have to be looked at but as far as prosecutors are concerned, we will continue to do what we have to do.”
Cekeshe has spent 22 months behind bars at Leeuwkop prison after he pleaded guilty for setting a police vehicle alight during the protests.
Yesterday the Johannesburg Magistrates Court refused to grant him to leave to appeal his conviction and sentence.
Shortly after the judgement, Lamola tweeted: “We note the dismissal of both the leave to appeal and bail for fees must fall activists Khaya Cekeshe by the Johannesburg Magistrate Court. We’re in the process of urgently assisting him with an application for presidential pardon or other legally available avenues.”
The DA issued a statement today slamming Lamola for his commitment to intervene, saying that he was displaying “contempt for the justice system.
“Mr Cekeshe was convicted on charges of public violence and malicious damage to property. These charges are both serious and deserving of consequences. It is precisely because the law has been ignored, and serious infringements have been seen to be without consequences that State Capture was able to take place, and the criminal justice system hollowed out to the shell we are left with today,” the statement read.
“For the Minister to enter the arena, making a mockery of the hard work of the NPA in pursuing the case and securing a conviction, and showing contempt for the Judiciary by suggesting that their work should simply be undone by the stroke of a Presidential pen, is something that should concern us all.”