The decision to leave the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) after serving as a state advocate for 36 years was not an easy one to make and is still difficult to process, Gerrie Nel said on Tuesday.
During a media briefing at AfriForum’s headquarters in Centurion, Nel told reporters that he had decided to leave the NPA because he wanted to make a difference in the lives of South Africans through a new prosecuting unit in the civil rights organisation.
“I’m not leaving the NPA because I’m upset, I’m creating something new,” Nel said.
Nel had been in talks with AfriForum, which is linked to the Solidarity trade union, for more than a year. As discussions continued and plans began developing, he found himself attracted to the idea of starting a unit that would make a difference by prosecuting both big and small cases.
“When we started talking about this particular unit and the concept and the possibilities, and the need for it, that is when I decided to chew on it and decided to make it my own.”
“All along it was very difficult for me to resign from my position as a prosecutor, it wasn’t easy.
It’s still not easy even as I’m standing here. I am a prosecutor at heart.”
‘I’m leaving a lifetime behind’
Nel tendered his resignation to North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi on Monday and gave 24 hours’ notice. He said the reason for the short notice was his mind was made up and he did not want to draw out the process.
“Yesterday was difficult. When I woke up I was shocked. It is not something that I contemplated. I contemplated being there until I retired and having a big farewell function as a good public servant.
“It was difficult, it still is. I am leaving a lifetime behind, a lifetime that I enjoyed, a lifetime that took a lot out of me.
“You should always leave when you’re still happy,” he added.
His colleagues and his family have given him their support, he said. And he had full confidence that his colleagues would continue to prosecute with the highest level of professionalism.
But Nel said he hoped to recruit some of his colleagues to help build the AfriForum team before officially beginning any work.
He did not want to be drawn into identifying any particular individuals the organisation planned on pursuing but confirmed that he may be dusting off some old files he had not had a chance to pursue while still in the NPA. – News24