Durban - Embattled National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams is facing fresh criticism for allowing President Jacob Zuma more time to explain why he should not be prosecuted for corruption.
This is after Abrahams extended the deadline by which Zuma should make representations on the corruption charges.
Just last week, Abrahams’ position as the country’s prosecutions boss was placed in jeopardy after the North Gauteng High Court ruled that his appointment to the post was invalid.
The court also found that Abrahams had demonstrated bias when dealing with issues related to Zuma.
Both Zuma and Abrahams are appealing the judgment.
Now it has emerged that Abrahams had extended the November 30 deadline to the end of January after receiving a request from Zuma’s lawyers.
The deadline extension comes after the Supreme Court of Appeal had confirmed the high court judgment, in a matter brought by the DA, that the NPA’s decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma in 2009 was irrational.
This effectively meant the charges against Zuma could be pursued in court by the NPA. However, a decision to prosecute rests with Abrahams.
The DA said the extension showed that Abrahams was hellbent on giving Zuma preferential treatment.
“Abrahams still refuses to treat Mr Zuma like any other accused.
“In the normal course of justice, the accused would be charged before a court of law and only then given the opportunity to make representations,” said DA member of Parliament James Selfe.
He said while the DA was disappointed, it was not at all surprised by “yet more delaying tactics” in the matter.
Zuma’s lawyers wrote to Abrahams just six days before the November 30 deadline, asking for the extension to February 19.
The representations will contain Zuma’s reasons why he should not be formally prosecuted on 783 counts of fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
In a letter sent to the DA, Abrahams said Zuma’s legal team had listed a number of reasons for requesting the extension.
These included the assertion that Zuma’s lawyers were not available until mid-December due to prior litigation commitments and that the matter is complex and would thus require more time.
“Much had transpired since the submission of MrZuma’s initial representations eight years ago and time was required to comprehensively review and appraise pertinent matters relating to the representations,” lawyers for Zuma had argued.
Lawson Naidoo, a constitutional law expert, said while Abrahams remains the NDPP it was disappointing that he is the one who made the determination to grant the extension.
“The NPA is not required to hear further representations from Mr Zuma. This matter needs to get to court as soon as possible and I think it’s inappropriate that this national director appointed by Zuma should make that determination,” he said.
Naidoo said the reasons advanced by Zuma were “lame” and the NPA’s decision was extremely disappointing.
“In September, when he (Zuma) conceded that the dropping of the charges was irrational, he indicated that he would like to make representations. He clearly has had more than enough time to prepare. It seems the president wants again to simply delay the issue,” Naidoo said.
Abrahams concedes in the letter that he understands the matter had dragged on for a long time and that it had to be brought to finality very soon.
“I have advised the legal representative of Mr Zuma that no further request for an extension of the submission of his representations will be entertained,” said Abrahams.
He said in granting the extension he had considered various factors including the complexity of the matter, public interest, the lapse of time, the interest of all parties and the import of the matter among other things.
Bukani Mngoma, an independent analyst focusing on politics and law, said there was nothing sinister about the NPA granting the extension.
“This is not unreasonable, especially if you consider that they had requested an ex- tension until February but Abrahams curtailed the request to only two months. It should be considered that in many cases it is very difficult to get legal counsel during the festive season.
“We also need to consider that for Zuma it is not a matter of simply regurgitating the representations he made in 2009.
“He needs to find new evidence or new basis on which he will argue that the cases should not be proceeded with,” he said.
Mngoma said the SCA judgment had made it clear that the representations Zuma made before were not enough to form a basis on which the charges could be dropped.