Shaun Abrahams: What was his actual role and motivation?

 Shaun Abrahams.
Shaun Abrahams.

Shaun Abrahams has finally played his hand to refute reports and beliefs that he is the man who desperately wants Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan convicted.

In the intrigue and web of what is politically viewed as a fight by President Jacob Zuma to remove a finance minister he considers a stumbling block, it is often difficult to determine what other agendas are at play or what interests individuals involved harbour.

A case in point is when Abrahams, viewed as Zuma’s henchman on this Pravin Gordhan matter, is suddenly asked by President Zuma to give reasons why he should not be suspended.

This leads to more questions: Is Zuma upset that he decided to withdraw the charges against Gordhan? Is he throwing him under the bus, as many characterised it?

Or is this just a tactic to technically comply and fob off the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law application, which have both demanded that Abrahams be fired for incompetence

The two organisations wrote to Zuma averring that: “In light of the circumstances surrounding the preferring and withdrawal of the charges, Mr Shaun Abrahams has ‘misconducted’ himself and is not a fit and proper person to hold the office of the [national director of public prosecutions], in that he lacks the required conscientiousness and integrity to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office of the [director].

“Abrahams has since, at the October 31 press conference, admitted that he had never applied his mind to the charges prior to October 11 and that he had seen no documents to support them – and that he did not seek to call for or interrogate any documents in support of them.”

They, therefore, argue that Abrahams was either reckless in the extreme, showed a spectacular dearth of conscientiousness or was plainly dishonest.

Personally I am still curious about Abrahams and his motivations.

There is no doubt that his equivocation and prevarications on charging and not charging Gordhan and company did his reputation no favour.

But the way he spells out how he resisted pressure from Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza in his affidavit will have his critics thinking twice about his exact role and motivations.

In his affidavit, Abrahams seeks to refute the point that he was driven by an ulterior motive in driving the prosecution. But first, he invokes the law to say that even if he had an improper motive, the prosecution would be lawful if reasonable grounds existed to prosecute.

Quoting the famous judgment of Deputy Judge President Louis Harms – often invoked by accused people who complain of political motivations behind their case – he stated: “A prosecution is not wrongful because it was brought for an improper purpose ... the best motive does not cure an otherwise illegal arrest and the worst motive does not render an otherwise legal arrest illegal.”

However, Harms also added: “This does not, however, mean that the prosecution may use its powers for ulterior purposes. To do so would breach the principle of legality.”

Abrahams takes umbrage at the allegation that he was “implacably committed to pursuing the prosecution and only relented in the face of external pressure”.

Abrahams demonstrates through letters that he gave the Hawks and Ntlemeza a chance to make representation after he received representation form Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula to review the prosecution.

Ntlemeza declined the opportunity but, two weeks later after he got wind that Abrahams might be changing his mind, criticised him for not acting in good faith by reconsidering the charges.

In a letter, Ntlemeza submitted: “It is our considered view that we have a strong case against the accused, despite all contrary views of the so-called opinion makers and legal experts in the media. It would be improper for you as [national director of public prosecutions] to stall or withdraw the prosecution of the accused person in this matter”.

Abrahams wrote back to Ntlemeza to say his views were completely incorrect and ill-informed.

Abrahams denies that he had over-relied on the prosecution team without applying his mind when he first profered the charges.

“When it came to reviewing stage, I directed an extensive investigation, which lead to the withdrawal of charges.”

He also admits that his visit to Luthuli House (ANC headquarters) had caused great suspicion. He was accused of having taken the instruction from ANC politicians at this meeting

“I deny that it is categorically excluded for me to attend a meeting at such a venue. Such attendance may be justified in special circumstances, such as arose in this instance.”

He says he was called by Justice Minister Michael Masutha to attend an emergency meeting about the escalating violence at institutions of higher learning as a direct result of #FeesMustFall.

“The president did not invite me to the meeting nor was the president aware that I would be in attendance until my arrival”.

But strangely, Abrahams then adds that the chairperson of the Luthuli House meeting had noted that former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had “called on the offices of the DA, where she attended meetings. She had also attended official DA events”.

The subtext is if Madonsela did it, why couldn’t he?

The high court in Pretoria might make whatever legal findings but, I can only say, the drama in this country just never ends.

Rapule Tabane
Politics editor
City Press
City Press
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