National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press
In one fell swoop, ANC MP Charlotte Pilane-Majake undid the three hours of painstaking spin by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams, who sought to convince members of Parliament and the public that he was independent of political influence.
“By the way, there is nothing wrong with visiting the ANC, because working for the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] and being in government means you are actually rolling out the mandate of the ANC as the governing party.
“I hear voices saying the president must come to you when he is supposed to consult with you … common sense will tell you that you can’t actually do that,” said Pilane-Majake while trying to defend Abrahams.
Pilane-Majake was referring to Abrahams’ meeting with President Jacob Zuma and other Cabinet members at the ANC’s headquarters at Luthuli House, Johannesburg on October 10 – the day before Abrahams announced that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former SA Revenue Service (Sars) executives Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay were facing fraud charges.
Opposition MPs who sit in the justice committee criticised Abrahams yesterday morning for the visit to Luthuli House, saying it raised questions around his political independence and the independence of the decision to charge the three former Sars senior employees.
The National Assembly’s justice portfolio committee had convened a special meeting this morning for Abrahams to brief MPs about the charging and dropping of charges against the trio.
“It’s relevant where this meeting took place, very relevant. Everybody knows in South Africa that political decisions by the [governing] party are taken at Luthuli House.
“If the head of the prosecuting authority attends a meeting at Luthuli House exactly before this announcement, surely the public will ask questions,” said Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus.
Abrahams defended his and the NPA’s independence, saying there was a misconception that the institution had been captured.
“Chairperson, I have not been captured by anyone, and so is the NPA!”
He added: “Captured by whom, can anybody answer that question, captured by whom?”
Abrahams said the decision to charge and prosecute Gordhan and others was not politically motivated and the fact that the charges were withdrawn was a testament to his independence as the NPA head.
“There is not an iota of proof of political interference in this matter,” he said. ANC MPs agreed.
Bongani Bongo (ANC) said from listening to Abrahams, he could tell that the NPA was working without fear, favour or prejudice.
Bongo said there was no legislation that prescribed where the NDPP should meet people.
“The law only requires him to be as independent as possible and to act without fear, favour or prejudice and people need to give you the benefit of doubt around that matter,” he said.
Bongo sought to cast aspersions on his DA colleague Glynnis Breytenbach when he suggested that Breytenbach had an axe to grind with Abrahams.
Breytenbach is a former NPA senior prosecutor and is facing several charges including fraud, perjury and defeating the ends of justice.
“The first [person] who called for your resignation is Breytenbach, who is facing charges from the NPA, ordinarily it’s a matter of fighting a personal battle,” said Bongo.
Bongo said Abrahams’ critics are people who want to cast aspersions because he was appointed by Zuma.
“The attack is directed at the president, they try to attack anyone who is appointed by the president,” he said.
Abrahams revealed that the meeting may have been too hot for his liking.
While answering a question about the absence of the senior prosecutors who took the decision to charge Gordhan, he replied:
“I anticipated that today’s briefing would be a briefing and not the type of interrogation I have been exposed to today with the questioning.
“For that particular reason I didn’t think it was necessary for them to be here … that’s why they are not here. I didn’t deem it necessary or appropriate,” he said.