Choosing a PG is not a beauty pageant

We are opposed to a public runway display for serious, professional legal candidates for the post of Prosecutor General (PG) A public interview process for the PG job is counterproductive. It can lower the dignity of the position and does not address the concerns about corruption in political appointments. Let the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) do their expert work according to the criteria. They should make their recommendations to the President in confidence.

We do not accept that the appointment of the outgoing PG, Martha Imalwa over 17 years ago was tainted in any way. Allusions to this as if it were ‘truth’ are a smear on Imalwa’s hard work and integrity.

There are certain ‘factions’ with biased beliefs trying to influence this process. Some may believe that only a white man who speaks Afrikaans and has South African degrees and experience could be an effective PG. Groups with these sentiments have been against the outgoing PG from Day 1, making her job harder than it needed to be.

This is not a populist appointment, but a specifically skilled one. Set the criteria, list the candidates (in confidence), do the interviews and rankings and then let the JSC present their list to the President.

What does ‘being open to public scrutiny’ actually entail? Does it mean that the pundits and legal technocrats, NGO funded organizations and individuals, and lawyers will be voyeurs in the process or participants?

Such exposure can have a negative view. What about a qualified candidate that is gainfully employed elsewhere and does not want to compromise their standing for a post they may not receive? The public exposure could have negative professional ramifications for such a highly qualified potential candidate. Public exposure may be enough to dissuade them from applying.

The ‘transparency’ sought by those supporting this kind of unnecessary pressure-filled public exposure of a job candidate does not promise a lack of corruption. Someone on exhibit acts like a museum display, not a potential prosecutor.

Indeed, the PG must not be afraid of audiences. It is a public position. But, an interview for such a high post that is a major cog in the wheels of Namibian justice need not be a heart-palpitating experience. The JSC must be presented with honest, open answers on the points posed, not posturing to please factions within the audience.

If there is a real fear that a PG will be chosen by the JSC who will be a political hack with no qualifications, then change the entire system. Make all judges, magistrates, and candidates for admission to the bar interview in public just as the PG would.

Let us not cheapen the post by working from a basis that an audience is the only silver bullet to kill suspected corruption in a selection process for the PG.

The budgets of all ministries are cut, the supporting staff for the PG are on a revolving door with many leaving for private practice or burning out. The overload of cases, the insufficient number of qualified and too few experienced investigators are challenges of this post. There are not enough judges and magistrates (not just in Windhoek but around the country). There is a poor level of forensics and other very real issues that plaguethe PG’s ability to make things move to the tune of so many critics. How will a public interview address any of these hurdles?

Getting a top-level prosecutorial brain to take on a PG’s job which is a labyrinth with a Minotaur inside stalking them, is a big ask. Let us not make the application process any harder than it already is.

We urge the JSC and the president to not belittle the process by making the PG selection process a runway pageant. Choose the next PG with confidentiality based on their qualifications and professionalism. Applause or public approval is irrelevant.

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