The independence of the national prosecuting authority of South Africa : fact or fiction?
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is critical in the proper functioning of South Africa’s criminal justice system and upholding of the rule of law. And for it to play this critical role it must be independent from any external influence and manipulation and carry out its functions without fear, favour and prejudice. Once it allows external interference in its prosecutorial function it runs the risk of functioning with fear and favour of powerful forces in the society, thereby losing its independence. This may result in loss of trust in and support by the public of the rule of law. However, in recent history the NPA has taken decisions that raise questions about its independence. These questionable decisions involve high profile politicians and government officials who are, allegedly, involved in illegal and corrupt activities and practices, but are either not prosecuted, or credible cases against them are being suspiciously withdrawn. This state of affairs has caused uncomfortable allegations and counter allegations, all of which question the independence of the NPA, and these can no longer be ignored. State institutions, especially the security cluster, are allegedly heavily involved and the judiciary is threatened overtly when certain decisions go against some politicians. The study, therefore, is designed to investigate the extent to which the alleged interferences impact negatively with the administration of justice. It then assesses and evaluates the constitutional and legislative safeguards guaranteeing the independence of the NPA in order to determine if they are adequate enough to prevent the NPA from external executive and political interference in its prosecutorial decision-making function. To achieve this, the charging, prosecution and dropping of charges against Jacob Zuma, on various counts of corruption and other related matters will, inter alia, be the primary focus of the study. The study comes up with set of recommendations aimed at strengthening the integrity of the NPA, in particular, and the criminal justice system in general.