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Anti-graft chief under fire



Latest fallout of Zuma/Gordhan war

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By Lukmon Akintola


In a classic case of the hunter now being hunted, South Africa’s anti-graft chief, Shaun Abrahams is presently fighting to fend off a barrage of criticism that threatens to cost him his job.

The development is coming after Abrahams, who heads the National Prosecuting Authority, NPA, has after weeks of blowing hot and cold withdrawn crime charges against embattled Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan in what commentators continue to insist was a politically motivated trial all along.

In what is being seen as the latest in a series of opportunistic posturings by the Zuma Presidency in the past few months, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) withdrew the charges against the minister almost as quickly as it had brought it up in the first place.

But critics say the move is aimed at diverting national protests this week and possibly helping South Africa to avoid a ratings downgrade.

In his official notice to the effect, Abrahams placed the blame for the case being built against Gordhan in the first place on some of his other colleagues at the NPA whom he however failed to name.

But the charges are believed to have been spurious and part of a plan by President Jacob Zuma’s faction to oust Gordhan who is widely regarded by the South African and international business communities, and who had been a key and central pillar in the running the South African economy during the landmark presidency of Nelson Mandela.

Not surprisingly therefore, when news first emerged that Gordhan was set to be prosecuted, the rand plummeted.

However, Abrahams has continued to deny charges of his being effectively a puppet on a string for Zuma.

Asked whether he will resign as a result of this fiasco in a press conference detailing the withdrawal of charges, he has strenuously said “no”.

He had said he does not believe this case is a blunder; instead he says a case was being built against Gordhan in a matter of legal differences of opinion. Nevertheless, he has promised to look at whether someone should face the music over this debacle, indicating a frantic hunt for a fall-guy.

Gordhan is not the only beneficiary of the NPA-amnesty as the summons against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials, Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, were all withdrawn.

NPA head Shaun Abrahams said he has notified Gordhan, explaining to him that he had decided to “overrule the decision” to prosecute the minister.

In a televised media conference detailing his reasons for withdrawing the charges, Abrahams said he is “satisfied” that Mr Pillay, Mr Magashule and Minister Gordhan did not have the intention to act unlawfully. This followed a letter from the Helen Suzman Foundation explaining the legal issues.

Abrahams said he had decided to “overrule the decision” to prosecute.

He said questioning the competence of investigators, prosecutors and himself was unfair. When asked whether someone’s head should roll, he said he would “certainly look into that”.

“I certainly don’t think this matter was a blunder,” he said. There are “differences over the interpretation of the law”.

He noted that neither Gordhan, Pillay or Magashula have spent a day in court and that he had applied his mind to the facts and made a decision – with these facts instilling confidence in South Africans that everyone will be treated fairly.

“I review many matters on a regular basis,” he said, pointing out that he had overturned many decisions by prosecutors in the interests of justice and because the evidence has dictated that line of action.

Abrahams said he always strives to “do the best I possibly can to deliver justice to the people of this country”.

“I certainly do not owe anybody an apology. I certainly do not,” he said.

Meanwhile the opposition Democratic Alliance has called for NPA head Shaun Abrahams’ head, following his decision to drop the criminal charges while the African National Congress has welcomed the decision.

Abrahams on Monday announced the decision to retract the summons, a day before Gordhan and former South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay were due to appear in court.

Abrahams said this was done following representations by both Magashula and Pillay.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Monday said the decision to drop the charges vindicated the party’s position that these charges were indeed manufactured for malicious political purposes and were without merit.

“We maintain that Shaun Abrahams initiated these charges against Pravin Gordhan for narrow political purposes, and now following a lack of evidence and huge public outcry, Abrahams has been forced to make an embarrassing about-turn, leaving him with egg on his face.”

The National Director of Public Prosecutions could not simply say they had made a mistake and withdraw charges, Maimane said.

“The stakes are far too high to be making such unacceptable and irresponsible mistakes. Shaun Abrahams must be held responsible for this unacceptable blunder. Questions remain regarding whether this was in fact malicious prosecution, what the consequences have been on the economy, and lastly, the damage to the reputation of the Minister of Finance.”

Maimane called on President Jacob Zuma to suspend Abrahams with immediate effect.

“Jacob Zuma must now act decisively, failing which we will have no option but to believe that he is behind these malicious political antics.”

On his part, the maverick Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Julius Malema simply tweeted: “We are going ahead with our protest on the 02 Nov to demand #shaunabrahams to resign & #ZumaMustFall.Let’s meet @ church square in Pretoria

Abrahams told the media on Monday that the decision to prosecute Gordhan had not been made by him, and he had reviewed it when the two parties made submissions.

He did not see the need to resign over the debacle.

“Will I resign? Certainly not, certainly not. I don’t owe anyone an apology,” he said.

In making his decision, he had applied his mind to the law, he said.

“Neither Pillay, Gordhan or Magashule spent a day in court,” he said.


Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s Finance Minister



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