Silas Ramaite appointed as acting NPA head

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Dr Silas Ramaite as Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions.

This marks Ramaite's third stint as an acting NPA head, brought in following the resignations of Bulelani Ngcuka in 2004 and Mxolisi Nxasana in 2015.

This time Ramaite replaces Shaun Abrahams, who was forced to vacate the office following the Constitutional Court ruling on Monday. The court found that Abrahams' appointment was invalid because his predecessor, Nxasana, was wrongfully removed by then-president Jacob Zuma.

The court ruled that Nxasana must pay back the R10m Zuma paid him to vacate the post.

Ramaphosaa now has three months to choose a new NPA head.

"While the President is studying the judgment, he is committed to appointing a permanent NDPP well within the 90 days given by the Constitutional Court for such an appointment to be made," Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said in statement. 

Ramaite is currently the National Prosecution Authority's Deputy National Director responsible for Administration and Office for Witness Protection. He has served as deputy director for 15 years.

A career prosecutor, Ramaite holds the following degrees: B.Proc (University of Fort Hare), LL.B; LL.M, specialising in Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Public International Law; and LL.D specialising in Constitutional Law (University of South Africa). He was admitted as an advocate of the Supreme Court in 1988 and was granted the status of Senior Counsel (SC) in 2001.

However in 2011 he courted controversy when he was arrested and released on R1 000 bail. 

Ramaphosa wishes Ramaite well

The National Prosecutions Act forces the president to choose among the current four deputies: Ramaite, Nomgcobo Jiba, Willie Hofmeyer and Nomvula Mokhatla.

The section states: "Whenever the office of the national director is vacant, or the national director is for any reason unable to make the appointment contemplated in paragraph (a), the president may, after consultation with the minister, appoint any deputy national director as acting national director."

Jiba is facing an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. Last week, Ramaphosa asked her to give reasons why she should not be suspended pending the inquiry. In July, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a ruling of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that Jiba be struck from the roll of advocates.

Hofmeyer faced scathing criticism from the Supreme Court of Appeal for defending the NPA's decision to drop the charges against Zuma, following the emergence of the so-called "spy tapes".

Ramaphosa has wished Ramaite well in his new role and said he believed this week's court judgment had set the NPA on a path that would restore its integrity and build the nation's confidence in the criminal justice system.

Political parties react to appointment

Meanwhile the ANC has congratulated Ramaphosa on making a swift decision to appoint Ramaite to the position.  

"This prompt and resolute action will go some way in ensuring that the nation regains confidence in this institution that is extremely critical to the integrity, stability and effectiveness of the criminal justice system," said ANC head of the presidency Zizi Kodwa in a statement. 

The DA says Ramaite’s appointment does nothing to stabilize 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,” DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Glynnis Breytenbach said in a statement.

Breytenbach called on Ramaphosa to urgently appoint a new permanent NDPP. She added that  Parliament must be involved in the selection process.

“Under the ANC, the NPA and other key institutions who charged with combating priority crimes like corruption, have been reduced to mere puppets who serve at the pleasure of the ANC mafia. Over the past decade, they have often been tasked with carrying out political hits rather than being allowed to carry out investigations and prosecutions without fear or favour,” she said.

The party plans to will introduce a Private Member’s Bill that requires that the President’s decision be informed by a resolution of the National Assembly passed with a supporting vote of at least 60% of the members of the National Assembly, which resolution should be based on the recommendation of a committee of the National Assembly.

Currently section 179 of the Constitution provides for the NDPP to be appointed by the President.