It wasn't an easy decision to leave the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) but advocate Gerrie Nel is excited about his future at AfriForum.
Nel left the NPA on Monday at 24 hours notice. AfriForum confirmed on its website on Tuesday that it has signed up advocate Gerrie Nel to head up its private prosecutions unit.
It wasn't easy to leave the NPA, Nel told a media briefing on Tuesday about his decision to quit and join the Afrikaans civil rights group. "It was very difficult for me... I'm leaving behind a lifetime, 36 years of prosecution is a lifetime," he said.
"I'm a prosecutor at heart. I will always be a prosecutor."
Nel said there were increasing perceptions that there were selective prosecutions, and he'd jumped at the chance to join a new private prosecuting unit at AfriForum, as nobody else was doing this. He said he wasn't asked "a single question" about his political affiliations by AfriForum. "I've never had a political agenda and I don't have one now. I've been a prosecutor for 36 years and I think I've built up integrity that I'm proud of over the period of 36 years. I won't sell it. I won't sell my integrity and do something that I don't believe in."
He said that once they get the legally required certificate permitting a private prosecution, they have three months to consider the matter and initiate the prosecution, and he does not expect to rush into any cases.
Nel said he has five to 10 years of his career left and hopes to make a difference in the justice system.
"I'm just excited to be part of something new."
AfriForum is a civil society organisation "with the aim of protecting the rights of minorities". In October, AfriForum launched an anti-corruption unit, in cooperation with private investigator Paul O'Sullivan.
The organisation has pushed the narrative of discrimination against white Afrikaners in South Africa, a claim that has been widely rubbished. They have taken footage of farm murders to the United Nations in an effort to get the concept wider recognition.
"AfriForum's newly founded private prosecuting unit gives me the opportunity to help ensure that justice triumphs from within civilian society, irrespective of the position of the person who is guilty of corruption. AfriForum and I are now in a position to prosecute ourselves corrupt persons who are not prosecuted by the NPA," said Nel in a statement on AfriForum's website earlier.
The man nicknamed "The Bulldog" has a formidable reputation. He has 35 years' experience and was the Gauteng provincial head of the elite crime fighting unit Scorpions, now known as the Hawks.
He was the man who secured a conviction against disgraced police commissioner Jackie Selebi. His work, however, has made him a target — even within his own unit.
In 2008 Nel was arrested on trumped-up fraud charges while pursuing Selebi, and he spent a night in the police cells. It later emerged that suspended deputy NPA head, Nomgcobo Jiba, was instrumental in securing an arrest warrant against Nel, according to News24.
In 2011 City Press reported that Jiba's hostility against Nel was caused by his involvement in a fraud case against her husband, Booker Nhantsi.
Nel won the murder conviction against Paralympian and Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013. He managed to overturn the verdict of culpable homicide against athlete, securing a guilty verdict of murder against Pistorius. The Blade Runner served one year in prison after the first conviction, but was sent back to serve six years.