‘Shaun Abrahams has a case to answer’
Johannesburg - National Prosecuting Authority head advocate Shaun Abrahams could be charged for misconduct and face an inquiry into his fitness to hold office for his aborted decision to criminally charge Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
This is according to constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos and head of politics at Stellenbosch University Professor Amanda Gouws after Abrahams made an about-turn on Monday and dropped the charges of fraud against Gordhan.
This comes as the EFF and ANC heavyweight Mathews Phosa said they had written to the General Council of the Bar to investigate Abrahams and whether he should be struck off the roll of advocates.
Abrahams’s deputies, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, face an inquiry into their fitness to hold office after they were recently struck from the roll of advocates, and the NPA boss could face the same sanction.
Announcing his decision on Monday, Abrahams said he had resolved to withdraw fraud charges against Gordhan, former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula and former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, but said the decision to prosecute was not his.
The explanation seemed fraught with contradictions of assertions he made when he charged them last month. He had said at the time: “What if this decision was made by a judge, what if this decision was made by the public protector, would your reaction have been the same? The days of disrespecting the NPA are over. The days of unaccountability and not holding senior government officials accountable are over.”
The decision to charge Gordhan, widely seen as politically motivated, sparked panic on the markets, with the rand tumbling by 3 percent.
Analysts believe Abrahams may have a case to answer.
De Vos said things did not look good for Abrahams and the NPA. “There are two options here: either the NPA is catastrophically incompetent or it was motivated by ulterior motives in the case,” he said.
De Vos said it was strange that the NPA prosecuted Gordhan when there was no case to answer. “There will be questions on the misconduct of members of the NPA or the head of the NPA,” he said, adding that the General Council of the Bar, Parliament or President Jacob Zuma might investigate Abrahams and remove him from office.
Gouws said Abrahams “did not do his homework” before charging Gordhan. “There should be an inquiry, because it’s not clear that he took the decision on his own. I also think that meeting at Luthuli House was improper,” she said.
Gouws was referring to a media report that Abrahams had met Zuma and three cabinet ministers behind closed doors a day before announcing his decision to charge Gordhan with fraud.
Abrahams insisted that he would not resign. “The question was, will I resign? Certainly not.”
Gordhan’s lawyer, Tebogo Malatji, declined to comment, but said the minister was considering the matter.
Zuma has remained mum on the saga as he prepared to jet out of the country for the inaugural Bi-National Commission in Zimbabwe.
The meeting begins in the capital Harare on Thursday.
But the groundswell of support for Gordhan stretched across political parties to civil society and the banking community.
The Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law said on Tuesday they would withdraw their application in the high court for a permanent stay of prosecution against Gordhan.
The Banking Association of South Africa warned of the damage already done to the country and the economy when the charges were laid against the finance minister.
“We are firmly of the view there could not have been any outcome to this costly saga. We again send out a message that there are attempts at political influence on our critical institutions,” it said.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa denied that the events surrounding the fraud charges laid against Gordhan reflected badly on Zuma’s decision to appoint Abrahams.
“There’s no criticising that decision. You don’t criticise people when there’s an error committed, because at the time of appointment, you wouldn’t have foreseen that a mistake would be made,” he told The Star.
Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane also weighed in on the matter, saying Abrahams must go.
“Shaun Abrahams must resign or be dismissed, if not for his own good, then as a lesson to others not to play loose and fast with our hard-won freedom and our constitution.” - Additional reporting by ANA
Political Bureau and The Star