‘Best qualified for the NPA job’

2015-06-19 09:42
Shaun Kevin Abrahams’s sister Lynn yesterday holds up a picture of her brother in his younger days.

Shaun Kevin Abrahams’s sister Lynn yesterday holds up a picture of her brother in his younger days. (Jonathan Erasmus)

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LEGAL corridors buzzed with ­excitement yesterday when it was revealed that former “Maritzburg boy” Shaun Abrahams had been appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions by President Jacob Zuma.

Well-liked, diligent, zealous, ambitious, straightforward though “possibly a bit young and inexperienced” were some characteristics attributed to Abrahams by members of the legal profession who knew him while he worked his way through the legal ranks in the capital.

He started out as an administrative clerk at the office of the KZN Director of Public Prosecutions in the late 1990s, while completing his law degree part-time through the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

He became a public prosecutor in the district and regional courts before being transferred to Pretoria as a state advocate around 2002/3.

He was a senior state advocate in the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit in the office of the NDPP at the time of his appointment.

Announcing the appointment, Zuma said Abrahams has 17 years’ experience in the prosecution service during which he accumulated “vast experience and gained impeccable technical expertise”.

Abrahams takes over from advocate Silas Ramaite who is presently acting NDPP. The presidency said Abrahams holds B Juris, B Proc and Bachelor of Law (LLB) degrees all from UKZN.

“What I can say is that they will not be able to dig up any dirt on Shaun. He is straightforward,” a former colleague, who studied and prosecuted alongside Abrahams, told The Witness. He ­requested his name not be published for professional reasons.

He described Abrahams as a “very likeable person” with a good sense of ­humour, and said he was able to interact well with people. “He was also very ­ambitious,” he added.

In his spare time, Abrahams was ­passionate about all sport, particularly rugby, he said.

“As a prosecutor he was hard-working, always fully prepared for his cases, likeable and eager to take on more serious cases. He had a hunger. We are very excited by his appointment and we are sure he will keep Pietermaritzburg’s flag flying high,” said another colleague.

Legal sources were unanimous however that Abrahams will find himself under immense pressure in his new job, and that he has “leapfrogged over many more senior heads”.

He will be called on to make challenging decisions, which could even entail having to decide whether to reopen the prosecution against President Zuma, if the DA has its way.

“I’m not sure he is experienced enough or strong enough to withstand the pressure,” said one concerned colleague.

The records of his predecessors do not paint an enviable picture.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach expressed the party’s reservations about Abrahams’s appointment, saying it was concerned that he was appointed just 19 days after the departure of Mxolisi Nxasana who was “paid to leave after serving one year of a 10-year contract”.

“Nxasana was appointed after a ­period of around two years without a permanent head and then only when the president was left with no choice as a result of court action by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac).

“Now with almost indecent haste, a relatively junior member of the NPA is catapulted over the likes of seasoned directors of public prosecutions, and more seriously, over the likes of Dr Silas Ramaite SC, or Willie Hofmeyr, both deputy national directors for more than a decade who have acted in the position countless times,” said Breytenbach.

She also claimed that “on cursory enquiry” it was clear Abrahams was seen to be close to Nomcgobo Jiba, deputy NDPP, who had “disgraced herself and the NPA repeatedly”.

“The cosy relationship between Jiba and the president is no secret and it appears that Abrahams was in fact Jiba’s choice,” said Breytenbach.

She added the DA will “have to wait and see what Abrahams is made of” and said he will have the opportunity to “prove his mettle when the spy tapes matter comes to fruition”.

A LEGAL expert in Pietermaritzburg, who asked for his name be withheld for professional reasons, said Abrahams is probably “the most experienced NDPP yet” having regard to his prosecutorial experience. “None of his predecessors were prosecutors so he is probably the best qualified for the job so far,” he said.

• Bulelani Ngcuka, a qualified attorney and husband of former deputy SA president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, became the country’s first NDPP in July 1998 until his resignation in 2004.

• He was succeeded by advocate Vusi Pikoli from 2005 to 2007 who was first suspended and later fired. He was best known for instituting prosecutions against former police commissioner, Jackie Selebi and Jacob Zuma.

• Pikoli was succeeded in an acting capacity by former KZN DPP Mokotedi Mpshe (who withdrew the corruption charges against Zuma), followed by the permanent appointment of another advocate, Menzi Simelane from 2009 to 2012.

• Simelane’s appointment was slammed by the DA due to the fact that his evidence before the Frene Ginwala inquiry (into Pikoli’s fitness for office) was strongly criticised.

• Nomcgobo Jiba was appointed acting NDPP, up until the appointment of Durban attorney Mxolisi Nxasana in October 2013, whose fitness for office was questioned by President Zuma, leading to his recent resignation and acceptance of a golden handshake. — Witness Reporter.

NEWLY appointed NDPP Shaun Abrahams says he is looking forward to “making a big difference and to regaining public trust in the criminal justice system”.

He yesterday thanked the Pietermaritzburg community for the “love and support” he’s received from them and said he was honoured by the trust placed in him by the president in appointing him to such a key position.

He will today take his oath of office before the Judge President of Gauteng.

Abrahams said Pietermaritzburg will always hold a special place in his heart as he has family and many friends there. “It’s the place I grew up in and I started my career as a prosecutor. All the opportunities that I have had came from Pietermaritzburg. It was a great stepping stone for me in my career and the community is very special to me.”

He added that he had “a lot of fun growing up”, and in particular recalls the joys of his school days at Woodlands Primary and later Haythorne High School, as well as playing rugby for the Young Lions, Maritzburg Blues and Collegians.

Told his mother was being interviewed by a colleague, Abrahams quipped laughing; “I hope she doesn’t let out too many secrets.” — WR

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  shaun abrahams  |  npa

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