HSF, FUL court bid is to prevent Gordhan from being charged again - Abrahams' lawyer

2016-11-24 17:05

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Pretoria - Civic organisations are seeking the immediate suspension of Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams because they are worried that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan could be charged again, his lawyer Advocate Hilton Epstein said on Thursday.

"The threat is that the rogue unit investigation is ongoing," he said.

He pointed to a media briefing held by Abrahams on October 31, where the NPA boss had confirmed that the investigation into the alleged South African Revenue Service (SARS) spy unit was ongoing. Epstein said the current court challenge was to secure a future for Gordhan as finance minister.

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and Freedom Under Law (FUL) have applied to the North Gauteng High Court to force President Jacob Zuma to take immediate action against Abrahams for the handling of the Gordhan case.

However, Zuma has questioned the urgency of the application and said the organisations should be patient as he was acting on the issue.

Zuma has written to Abrahams along with two officials, Torie Pretorius and Sibongile Mzinyathi, giving them the opportunity to make written submissions to him detailing why they should not be suspended over their handling of the fraud charge against Gordhan and two others.

Right to err

The three, including two former SARS officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, faced a fraud charge over an early retirement package for Pillay, which Gordhan signed off on in 2010 while he was commissioner at SARS. Pillay was later rehired as a consultant.

Abrahams announced at the media briefing that he had reviewed charges against Gordhan, Magashula and Pillay and had decided not to pursue the matter.

Epstein said errors made by prosecutors could not be compared to a plane crash and that they had a right to err in their task.

He also argued that the application by FUL and HSF was not based on facts.

Jaap Cilliers, who represented Pretorius, echoed this. He told the court that the two organisations were basing their concerns on what was being reported in the media.

"They want the president to not look at the facts, but instead perceptions created by the press and some members of the population," said Cilliers.

Advocate David Unterhalter, who is representing both civic organisations, has been given a chance to respond after all the parties weighed in on the urgency of the matter.

The matter continues.

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