Ralph Mathekga

Useless Abrahams being fed to the wolves

2016-11-16 10:58
NPA boss Shaun Abrahams (File)

NPA boss Shaun Abrahams (File) (File photo)

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As the story about the NPA’s pursuit of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan develops the plot seems to be taking a strange twist following President Jacob Zuma’s indication that he is willing to suspend the head of the prosecution authority Shaun Abrahams.

Zuma has written a letter to Abrahams, asking the director of public prosecutions to state reasons why he should not be suspended. Abrahams has been given 14 days to respond. Zuma’s decision is based on the manner in which Abrahams dealt with the Gordhan matter. Instead of going ahead with Gordhan’s prosecution, Abrahams made a turn about two weeks ago and stated that he did not see the reasons to go ahead with the prosecution.

It is interesting how Abrahams justified his decision not to go ahead with the prosecution. He stated that his decision was based on the pre-trial review process he undertook after the two accused, Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, approached him and asked for review of the decision to prosecute them together with Gordhan. Before Abrahams made a plea for the accused to come forth and request a review from him, it became clear to me that Abrahams was looking for a dignified way out of this mess.

Here is a prosecutor who knows exactly what it takes to prosecute a case successfully before the court. He now had on his desk a case that he had been asked to prosecute, and he was aware that the case would not hold in court. Abrahams was stranded between a political mandate to prosecute a case that he could not possibly win and abandoning the case on his own and falling out with his political boss.

Confronted with this dilemma, he decided to bring in the idea of reviewing the decisions to prosecute. This was a crafty way out for Abrahams who could then say he attempted to prosecute and deliver on the political mandate to do so, while at the same time saying that he had been reasonable and exercised his judgment which resulted in him dropping the case. Civil society organisations would welcome Abrahams’s decision to drop charges, and he could also demonstrate to his political bosses that he tried. Abrahams was also aware that had he foolishly gone ahead with the charges, he would have been embarrassed at court and he might also have faced a disciplinary process by the general bar council, an association of lawyers. It was just too risky to go to court and still retain his integrity as a lawyer.

The explanation that Abrahams might have given to his political bosses, read Zuma, for dropping those charges were clearly not acceptable. He is seen to have caved to political pressure and sheepishly abandoned Gordhan’s prosecution. Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza maintains that Abrahams should have gone ahead with the prosecution. Unlike Ntlemeza, whose career depends mostly on the relationship he has with his political boss, Abrahams’s career depends on his integrity and if he violates that, he will be struck off as a practicing advocate irrespective of how much support he enjoys from his political boss.

Clearly, Abrahams has fallen out with his political bosses because he has become useless, if not a hindrance, to the grand plan to prosecute Gordhan. As a result of this, Zuma is now willing to feed him to civil society organisations including Freedom Under Law, who have been calling for his head since the NPA decided to prosecute Gordhan.

Abrahams is on his own and now he has to come up with reasons as to why he should remain in office following his flip-flopping on the Gordhan prosecution. The only way out is for him to come clean and state why he decided to prosecute in the first place. He has to state if there has been any political meddling in his decisions to prosecute.

He might start talking, and interesting details might be aired. This is far from over.  

* Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

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.

Read more on:    shaun abrahams  |  pravin gordhan  |  npa
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