Why is the same NPA unit charging Gordhan and Malema?

Johannesburg - The NPA unit charging Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with fraud and EFF leader Julius Malema with trespassing has come under attack in recent weeks for being "politically motivated". 

Two weeks ago, forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan launched a High Court application detailing what he believed were "politically motivated" reasons why the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU) and the Hawks were investigating him.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams used to be a member of the PCLU before his appointment in June last year by President Jacob Zuma. Shortly after his appointment, Abrahams instructed the PCLU to directly report to him.

In court papers, O'Sullivan has asked that the High Court in Pretoria grant an interdict stopping the PCLU from investigating or supervising any of a number of criminal cases against him.

In the application, O'Sullivan said the PCLU was not following its mandate in investigating him. It appeared "to be behind almost all of what the media reports as politically motivated investigations and prosecutions in South Africa".

The unit was prosecuting:

  • Gordhan for fraud;
  • Malema for contravening the Riotous Assembly Act;
  • O'Sullivan for a host of alleged crimes, including contravening the Citizenship Act, fraud and kidnapping;
  • Former prosecutor and DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach for fraud and perjury, and
  • Former Hawks head Anwa Dramat, former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen, and former Gauteng Hawks boss Shadrack Sibiya.

The unit had also led the prosecution of former Ipid head Robert McBride. He won his case in the Constitutional Court last month and could be returning to his job. 

'Serious national and international crimes'

According to the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) website, the PCLU was formed by a presidential proclamation by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2003.

Its mandate is to investigate and prosecute crimes contemplated in the implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act and serious national and international crimes. These include terrorism, sabotage, high treason, sedition, foreign military crimes committed by mercenaries, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.


The proclamation citing the unit's mandate. (File, supplied)


The unit is led by Torie Pretorius, who was promoted by Abrahams into the role, and senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Chris Macadam.

During O'Sullivan's Citizenship Act case in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court, prosecutor Jabulani Mlotshwa, a PCLU member, said the unit had six prosecutors. 

The NPA's website states the PCLU can investigate "other priority crimes determined by the National Director".

"The PCLU strives to maintain a high standard of efficiency in dealing with complex matters emanating from its mandate and which impact on the Rome Statute and State security," the website said. 

Crimes the unit had previously overseen related to the non-proliferation of chemical and biological warfare agents, foreign military assistance, national and international terrorism, conventional arms, matters affecting state security, and Truth and Reconciliation Commission prosecutions.

In his application, O’Sullivan said it was interesting to contrast these cases with ones the PCLU was working on. 

"Its focus now seems to have shifted to prosecuting people that will or are able to expose high-level corruption," he said.  

'Sies Torie!'

When asked why this unit was investigating cases like fraud, NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the PCLU’s mandate was clear: It could investigate any matter the National Director of Public Prosecutions referred to it.

"It is at the NDPP’s discretion to refer matters to the PCLU. He can ask them to look at any high profile case," Mfaku said.

"The rogue unit is a case that falls under the security of the state, and the case against Gordhan now is parallel to that matter. Anyway, who says what cases a prosecutor is supposed to prosecute or not? A prosecutor can prosecute anything."

In a post on his Facebook page on Tuesday, award-winning investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw criticised the PCLU's role in the prosecution of Gordhan. Pauw was especially critical of Pretorius's involvement in the matter.

Pauw highlighted the "once brilliant" Pretorius's earlier role in the successful prosecution of apartheid-era state operatives Eugene de Kock and Ferdi Barnard.

"I am dumbfounded that (Pretorius) is part of the NPA cabal that have decided to charge Pravin Gordhan and other SARS officials. Sies Torie! Instead of being remembered as a brave prosecutor you will now go down in the history books as the once brilliant prosecutor that licked the feet of the disgraced emperor," Pauw wrote.

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