Shaun's successor: Expect more treading water than rocking the boat
Dr Silas Ramaite has been appointed as acting NDPP - for the third time - and hopes aren't high for sweeping reforms
It’s not the first time Dr Silas Ramaite has had to leave his desk and temporarily take over his boss’s office until a new national director of public prosecutions is appointed. It is not even the second time he has made to act as NDPP.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that he had appointed Ramaite as acting NDPP following the Constitutional Court judgment that found Shaun Abrahams’ appointment was invalid.
He was one of four deputy directors of public prosecution eligible for that position and Ramaphosa said in a statement he wished him well.
Ramaite, who has been deputy director of public prosecutions since 2003, has to take the reins while Ramaphosa mulls over who the next permanent NPA head will be.
This effectively makes him the “caretaker” until Ramaphosa makes up his mind.
“President Ramaphosa has wished Dr Ramaite well in his new role and expressed his belief that this week’s court judgment has set the NPA on a path that will restore the integrity of the Authority and build the nation’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said.
Ramaite first acted in the job in 2004 when former NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka resigned from office. At the time there was speculation that he would be Ngcuka’s successor.
But that was not to be and he acted until former president Thabo Mbeki appointed Vusi Pikoli as NDPP.
He held the fort again after Mxolisi Nxasana’s depature from the NPA and the appointment of Shaun Abrahams as NDPP in 2015.Now, again, he has to warm the seat of the top job at the NPA while the office faces turbulence.
His current job deals with the administrative side of the NPA and he is in charge of the witness protection programme. Interestingly, he served under six NDPPs who took that office and insiders believe he won’t be considered once again for the top job.
It was expected that Ramaite would be made caretaker again because he was seen to be neutral and efficient. Ramaphosa made the decision after consulting with Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
The ANC said in a statement that it welcomed Ramaite’s appointment and called the decision “decisive action”.
The DA’s Glynnis Breytanback however disagreed, saying his appointment does not bode well for restoring independence at the NPA.
“Ramaite has in the past defended the decision of former NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka to not institute corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma in the infamous ‘Spy Tapes’ saga. He even went so far as to acknowledge his own co-responsibility on the issue,” she said.
Breytenbach accused him of being weak and called on Ramaphosa to appoint a new NDPP urgently.
Ramaphosa’s office will only commit to respect the ConCourt ruling to appoint a new NPA head within 90 days.
Insiders believe that the office will likely “function on autopilot” and that Ramaite will be cautious not to effect many changes.
A senior leader in the NPA said Ramaite is “unlikely to rock the boat” and it would be up to the new NDPP to turn things around at the prosecuting authority.
Ramaite caused controversy when he was arrested for drunken driving after allegedly crashing his Jaguar into another vehicle in Limpopo in June 2011 – but the charges against him were withdrawn.
Erstwhile NDPP Abrahams is said to have been delaying dealing with big cases pending the judgment by the apex court so “there is nothing big that will come from that office”.