What we know about the new head of the Independent Directorate, Andrea Johnson?

Attorney Andrea Johnson became known to South Africans and the world during the murder trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorious.

She was the woman behind then-prosecutor Gerrie Nel and saw her hand in notes to Nel in the state’s case against the Blade Runner.

Formidable Johnson no fuss

Notably, after reading Johnson’s notes, Nel was no doubt armed with ammunition to deliver the specialized quirk we’ve come to love about one of South Africa’s most prominent prosecutors.

But that’s not Johnson’s only claim to fame.

The outspoken, no-nonsense advocate made her mark while investigating organized crime with the now-defunct Scorpions. At the time, she was at the center of investigations into former disgraced Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Andrea Johnson
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 27: Peet van der Spuy, investigative officer, attorney Gerrie Nel and attorney Andrea Johnson at the North Gauteng Supreme Court on November 27, 2013, in Pretoria, South Africa. the murder of Chanelle (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Herman Verwey)

She led the prosecutions in Selebi and the late former mining magnate Brett Kebble.

Johnson is currently the Acting Special Director of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit and the Organized Crime Component Coordinator in the NPA.

She was also one of 15 shortlisted candidates to replace Shaun Abrahams, the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority.

In its statement on Johnson’s appointment, the NPA said her background with the Scorpions would be particularly helpful in leading the Investigating Directorate (ID).

“She led a team of senior prosecutors and detectives who successfully handled complex forensic investigations into financial cases. This unique experience with the [Scorpions] is immensely important to the current leadership needed to move the ID forward,” the NPA statement said.

Smear campaign

Sometimes it feels like South Africa’s security cluster is cursed with tainted appointments.

On the eve of Johnson’s appointment, the Mail and Guardian reported that Johnson had been engaged in cover-up claims with an alleged rogue agent via telephone conversations.

Brigadier James Ramanjalum was arrested in June 2020 on charges of fraud and corruption.

Phone records show that he had contact with Johnson shortly after his arrest.

The Daily Maverick reported that it had seen Johnson’s affidavit with the NPA.

She explained that she met Ramanjalum at meetings of the National Core Command Group established in March 2020 to monitor and implement the Covid-19 pandemic regulations.

After Ramanjalum was arrested, his daughter contacted Johnson asking for help for her and her younger brother.

“I asked if they could stay somewhere, and she said her brother might go to a friend’s house, but she had to stay home with the helper.

“I indicated that if she didn’t feel safe they should let me know and if they needed help with food she could let me know,” Johnson wrote, pointing out that at least one other member of the command group also offered to help the children of Ramanjalum with food if needed.

“I didn’t talk to her, her brother or the brigadier general about the matter because it wasn’t something I would have done,” Johnson said.

The timing of these charges against Johnson would be suspect as they appear to be the only public blot on the prosecutor’s otherwise impeccable reputation.

“Given the current climate in which the ID operates, we expect these unwarranted attacks to continue,” the NPA said.

Curated by Narissa Subramoney

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