New prosecuting unit in the interest of all South Africans - AfriForum
Pretoria - Lobby group AfriForum has denied claims that the organisation serves to protect the rights of the white Afrikaner population in the country.
Speaking at the official announcement on Tuesday of a newly-established prosecuting unit, to be led by State advocate Gerrie Nel, AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said this perception was mere "propaganda" which was not based on facts.
"If you go into facts and you ask the people making these allegations, name one instance where AfriForum acted in a racist manner, then you won't find that.
"But if you ask, where did AfriForum do things that are to the benefit of all South Africans, I can name many," Kriel said.
"We fix potholes, we make sure water is safe, we make sure that towns have electricity, we are willing to take on Eskom and if you look at that, we are not just asking that only Afrikaners drive [on that] road, or have clean water or electricity. We are fighting those issues in the interest of everybody, and those are the facts."
Kriel said this was not surprising because any successful watchdog organisation was bound to make enemies, however, the only thing those enemies could try to do to silence them was to give them false labels.
'All equal before the law'
"People should judge us on our actions and not on the grounds of who we are, because that would be dangerous," Kriel said.
On Tuesday morning News24 reported that Nel had tendered his resignation at the National Prosecuting Authority and had given them 24 hours' notice.
On Tuesday afternoon Kriel officially welcomed Nel to the organisation as the head of its private prosecuting unit.
The reason for establishing the unit was based on the perception that the NPA was selective when it came to prosecuting matters. This was where the unit would step in. Its aim was to ensure that "all be equal before the law," both Kriel and Nel said.
There were mixed reactions to the news, with some questioning why Nel – who had served in the NPA for 36 years - decided to quit four years away from retirement, why he had given such short notice, and why he had chosen to align himself with AfriForum.
The 56-year-old told reporters that his decision was not a simple one, and that he had mulled it over for more than a year. He also said once he had made his decision, he did not want to drag it out and was keen to begin immediately.
He also said he hoped South Africans would have faith in his integrity as a prosecutor and trust that he would maintain the same standard in the new job.
"I have been a prosecutor for 36 years and I think I have built up integrity that I am proud of," he said.
No parallel prosecutions
Nel will start his new job on February 1 and is expected to spend his first month rounding up a solid team of prosecutors and experts, before pursuing any matters.
No matter is too big or too small, and Nel has urged South Africans to come forward and seek assistance from the unit.
Each case's merits would be studied before a decision is made on whether to go ahead with prosecution or not. Nel stressed that the unit would not run parallel prosecutions, but would only deal with matters which the NPA had opted not to pursue.
If the unit did not pursue any cases that would be a good thing because it would mean that the NPA was doing its job.
Kriel said the organisation had already budgeted for the year ahead and Nel's team. He also believed that the unit would be financially sustained by the organisation's sponsors.
"We are fortunate that we have the power of civil society and we have more than 185 000 members who support us on a continuous basis that makes it possible for us to do this.
"They've made it possible for us in the past to take on governments, so we should not underestimate the power of civil society and we are confident that this will be sustainable," Kriel said.