Who Is Oscar Pistorius' Prosecutor Gerrie Nel? Everything You Need To Know About South Africa's 'Pit Bull'
In the last two months, Gerrie Nel has barked his way into fame as the prosecutor who brought Oscar Pistorius to hysterics. Known as the "pit bull" or "bull terrier" in South Africa for his aggressive prosecution style, Nel has developed an impressive reputation of integrity, compounded by an unwavering commitment to justice. But while Nel may be a star lawyer in South Africa, his reputation outside of his country has been defined by the blubbering and retching of Pistorius. Nel, however, is much more than Pistorius' antagonist.
He is, in fact, a grade-A bad-ass.
1. He was the prosecutor in the Jackie Selebi case
Don't remember who Jackie Selebi is? That's because Nel shut him down in 2010. Selebi, the former national police commissioner and Interpol president, was convicted of corruption in an extremely high-profile trial. Previously heralded as one of the greatest crime fighters in South Africa, the discovery that he himself was a crook was a huge blow to both his reputation and South African law enforcement.
Nel led the prosecution against Selebi that ultimately found that Selebi had accepted bribes in return for ignoring drug trafficking. During the sentencing, the judge in the case said that Selebi "had embarrassed the state, the police force and the court." Nel latched onto Selebi's apparent lack of remorse for his crimes, saying "We don't have a fallen angel here. A fallen angel admits when they make a mistake." This trial solidified Nel's status as a star prosecutor.
2. He was once subjected to a police raid
In 2008, due to his involvement in the Selebi case, Nel was the target of a late-night raid under claims that he had committed fraud. 20 police officers stormed Nel's house in the middle of the night, and he was arrested in front of his wife and children in what appeared to be an elaborate intimidation ploy.
The fabricated charges were later dropped, and far from dissuading him from taking Selebi's case, Nel instead moved full force onward, securing a 15-year prison sentence for Selebi just two years later. How do you like them apples?
3. He loves his animal comparisons
He might be known as the pit bull, but Nel has been involved in several groups that go by different animal names. In 1999, Nel founded an elite police and prosecution unit known as the Scorpions, which was later renamed the Hawks. Clearly, Nel has a penchant for frightening and aggressive animals, and attempts to model his own style after the prowess of Mother Nature.
Nel is certainly very hawk-esque, with his sharp, precise questions that go in for the kill. There is also a resemblance to scorpions, with his stinging accusations that leave defendants crying and cringing on the stand. And obviously, Nel's aggression can be likened to that of a pit bull, who will stop at nothing until the attack is done and justice won.
4. He's involved in some crazy conspiracy theories
Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli, a top police officer who was also accused of corruption during the Selebi trial and was later suspended, has accused Nel of conspiring to murder him. In December 2013, Mdluli opened an intimidation case against two prosecutors and a police investigator, claiming that the trio were plotting to kill him.
Mdluli said that he had "received information from a reliable witness," informing him that the three of them "were having a secret meeting" about Mdluli in which they insisted that Mdluli "must be killed or they would try to fabricate a case" against him. When one of the other lawyers accused of participating in the plot heard of this, she "laughed uproariously." Nel probably did too.
5. He's won some pretty impressive prizes
As if Nel's track record wasn't impressive enough in and of itself, he has the hardware to back it up. In 2012, Nel was awarded an international special achievement prize for his "fierce pursuit of the vision of the National Prosecuting Authority's ideals to achieve justice in society."
But despite his accolades, Nel has done everything he can to avoid the spotlight — he's been described as a "disciplined 'nice guy' who enjoys golf and wrestling" who spends his evenings coaching children. A former colleague told the Financial Times, "He does not want publicity in any way. He’s just not interested in being a celebrity."
Whether or not he wants it, however, it seems that Nel has found the spotlight, and is doing a great job with it.