Former state prosecutor gives an insight into new role
Advocate Gerrie Nel is like a dog with a bone when it comes to corruption, something he is not willing to sit back and do nothing about, and with his tenacity and passion for the law, it is easy to see where he got his nickname from.
He may have raised a few eyebrows when he quit the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to explore private prosecution, with many calling the move a political one, but the “bulldog” – as he is known for his aggressive approach in the courtroom – believes wholeheartedly that for justice to be done, South Africans need to be proactive.
Nel, known best for his successful prosecution of Jackie Selebi, and more recently, the epic Oscar Pistorius murder trial, was in Port Elizabeth yesterday to talk about his groundbreaking new role with corruption watchdog, AfriForum.
He said he wanted to demystify what private prosecution was all about. For him, the biggest reward is to sit with a victim’s family after a case and know that they can now rest.
“It is also equally satisfying to watch the accused walk down the courtroom stairs as he or she is removed from society.
I studied law because I hate bullies,” Nel said at a breakfast hosted by Port Elizabeth law firm BLC Attorneys.
“For justice to be done, we must all be equal in front of the law. There must be no selective prosecution,” he said, explaining the reason behind his decision to move into the private sector.
While he remained mum on which cases he would tackle first, not revealing much about rumours of President Jacob Zuma being number one on his list, Nel said he was working on four matters.
On February 1, he supplied his new e-mail address to the public, encouraging South Africans to come forward with cases they would like him to take a look at, and, needless to say, within weeks he received thousands of requests – hundreds of which were from women asking him to assist in their divorces.
“At least I know I will always have a job,” he quipped.
Private prosecution is no easy task. Only once the NPA has issued a certificate stating their decision not to prosecute, may Nel opt to prosecute privately through the courts.
“Pretty much whatever you can do in a civil case, you can do here,” he said.
But the bulldog will not let a few hurdles get in his way.
Asked about the ramifications of running a parallel structure to the NPA, Nel said the alternative was sitting back and doing nothing – something he was not born to do.