Batohi’s Darfur connection epitomises SA’s u-turn

By Alec Hogg

South Africa’s new criminal justice head, Durbanite Shamila Batohi, is the stuff of Zuptoid nightmares. Smart, tough, globally connected and vastly experienced, she is the perfect person to enforce the Constitutional Court’s directive to cleanse the National Prosecuting Authority of “all the ills that have plagued it for the past few years.”

Adv Batohi personifies a u-turn taken under new president Cyril Ramaphosa after a decade of plunder and corruption. Three years ago then Jacob Zuma-led South Africa shielded Sudanese president Mohammed al-Bashir from a warrant for his arrest issued in 2009 by the new NPA boss’s current employer, the International Criminal Court.

The ICC, established by civil society organisations in the wake of humanitarian tragedies in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, demands that the Sudanese president-for-life answer for the murder and rape of thousands in Darfur. Zuma described al-Bashir as “my brother” and even tried to get SA Airways to open a R30m a year loss-making Khartoum route as a sign of his respect.

In stark contrast, Ms Batohi served as one of the ICC’s top executives during the Zuma era. She is a senior legal advisor in prosecutions around modern slavery, child soldiers and genocide. This has brought her a high international profile. Including, tellingly, as a regular keynote speaker at the annual Darfur Women Action Group symposiums. How the wheel has turned.