Melanie Verwoerd

Superman Shaun vs Shaun the Sheep?

2016-11-01 11:32

Melanie Verwoerd

While living in Ireland, I became fond of a slightly crude expression which the Irish use to dismiss someone who has made a complete and utter fool of him- or herself. They would proclaim loudly: “Fecken eejit!” Well, I think we can all agree that this adequately describes Shaun Abrahams and his shenanigans of the last three weeks.

Not that he thinks that way. During his press conference on Monday it became clear that, despite costing our economy tens of billions of rands, destroying the image of the NPA completely and causing devastating pain and damage to the standing of the three people involved, he portrayed himself as the hero. He was the man who invited the three accused to make presentations, he was the one who then applied his mind and gave due consideration to all the facts and he was the one who in the interest of justice, nogal, then overturned the original decision. He was the defender of the truth who rectified the sad situation. Superman Shaun to the rescue. 

Of course, he first tried to dazzle us with 45 minutes of the technicalities of clause this and subsection that. I have to admit, I dozed off for a few seconds – maybe that was the intention. Luckily I woke up in time for the announcement that charges had been withdrawn. Then, as always, came the good bits: question time. Of course Superman Shaun reminded us that he is really a good guy, since he could have just issued a press release. But he really wanted to take us into his confidence and be transparent. Haai, dankie Oom Shaun. How kind of you!

Most importantly he needed to be very clear that he had made no mistake in originally charging the three. Oh, wait! Actually it wasn’t him who charged them. It was two of his juniors. Blame them. And of course they are not the only ones to blame. Pravin Gordhan should have presented himself for the warning statement, then this would not have happened. Blame him. Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula should have not chosen to be silent when they presented themselves to the Hawks. Blame them. The Hawks did not present him with any evidence of the Vlok Symington affidavit. Blame them. (Not that it would have made a blind difference, since he admitted not having read the docket, before he told the whole world he was charging our finance minister and two other senior officials with fraud.)

And no, he therefore “certainly, certainly does not have to apologise to anyone or resign”.

Actually, he does – on both fronts.

Firstly, he owes this country, its people and above all, Pravin Gordhan, Ivan Pillay, Oupa Magashula and their families a big apology. He clearly has no idea how much strain these last weeks have put on them and their families.  Or perhaps he just doesn’t care about that or the fact that he has seriously damaged their reputations. I hope that they sue Shaun Abrahams and his office for the damage caused.

Sadly as a nation, we cannot sue him or the NPA for costing the country billions. It is not only the R50bn hat was lost on the stock exchange the day of the announcement. It is the cost to the currency, imports, exports, government bonds and the loss in confidence that takes years to rebuild. Of course if we do get downgraded by the rating agencies,  the decision to prosecute our Finance Minister would certainly have contributed to the downgrade. And who will ultimately pay for it? The ordinary people of this country.

Superman Shaun emphasised repeatedly that he was only doing his job and has not, nor will he ever, pay “due regard to political considerations”. It took me a few minutes to stop laughing and catch my breath after he said that. He must think we are the “eejits”. Maybe he can try this line on the comrades in Luthuli House next time he goes and visits number one and his favourite NEC members. No wonder people are calling him Shaun the Sheep on social media.

I had another laughing fit, when he tried to convince everyone that this sordid affair has done nothing to damage the credibility of his office. In fact he actually wanted us to believe that the press conference of Monday would increase people’s faith in the office.

The most startling example of the lack of political insight was his response as to why he did not review the case more carefully before he announced the prosecution of the three men. “I can’t know what happens in all the cases in this country. If something happens in the lower courts all over the country, do you want me to know what is going on? If you ask me what is happening in Court 15 or in the Pretoria Regional or District court right now I would not be able to tell you...” he snapped at a journalist. So, he wanted to know from said journalist, on what basis he could have intervened on this matter. Let me try and explain this slowly and simply. Because, IT WAS THE NATIONAL MINISTER OF FINANCE!! You know the guy in charge of our economy, that one!!! Eish!! Even the real Shaun the Sheep would have gotten this one!

Ultimately though, it is not only the arrogance, lack of responsibility or political naivety that should ensure Shaun Abrahams’ resignation. It is his sheer incompetency.

In the press conference three weeks ago, he acknowledged not knowing if anyone had previously been prosecuted on the same issue. Yet, on Monday, he had to admit that thousands had taken early retirement before. There was no attempt to establish any jurisprudence – the 101 of law. Furthermore neither he, nor anyone in his office thought to look at other cases involving Mr. Pillay and so missed the Vlok Symington memo.  Even worse, after he was made aware of it by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom under the Law, he still did not know that it was in the public domain since 2014. It was up to those pesky journalists to tell him in the press conference. One has to wonder if the video footage of the hostage keeping of Vlok Symington did not surface, would he have gone ahead with the charges?

He also wanted us to know that after Pillay and Magashula came to plead with him to reconsider the charges, Superman Shaun very efficiently asked SARS for an affidavit as to why they handled Pillay differently, checked with the Government Employee Pension Fund about their rules, checked on the e-mails of the acting DG of DPSA and also listened to the Pillay and Magashula’s versions of what happened. Why on earth was that not done before he threw a massive question mark over our finance minister and his former officials? Surely for the sake of building up a case his office should have ensured that those involved had been interviewed on their version of the events?

There is no question in my mind that Shaun Abrahams can no longer stay as head of the NPA. If he doesn’t want to resign, the President should relieve him of his duties, or the ANC should re-deploy him, perhaps in Luthuli house. I’m sure he knows his way there. If he doesn’t resign or get fired, it will be  proof once and for all that he was sheepishly following his political masters as most of us suspect.  

 

*Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and SA Ambassador to Ireland.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

* Only comments that contribute to a constructive debate will be approved by moderators.

Read more on:    npa  |  oupa magashula  |  ivan pillay  |  shaun abrahams  |  pravin gordhan
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