South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday appointed advocate Shaun Abrahams as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) with immediate effect. There was mixed reaction to the appointment, with former NDPP advocate Vusi Pikoli welcoming his appointment and the Democratic Alliance questioning why other “seasoned” prosecutors had been passed over.
Abrahams, a senior state advocate in the priority crimes litigation unit in the office of the NDPP, takes over as the head of the country’s prosecuting authority after Mxolisi Nxasana stepped down last month after reaching a settlement agreement with Zuma. Silas Ramaite had been acting as NDPP after Nxasana’s departure.
Pikoli said Abrahams’s appointment was a step in the right direction.
“He [Abrahams] is coming from the prosecution services. I know Shaun even though I did not work with him closely. He is a person who knows the department of justice and the NPA and that will give him a good understanding of the NPA environment,” said Pikoli.
DA justice spokesperson Glynnis Breytenbach said Zuma had made the appointment just 19 days after the departure of the last incumbent, Mxolisi Nxasana, who served one year of a 10-year contract. Nxasana reportedly accepted a settlement of more than R17-million.
“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.”
“Upon a cursory inquiry, it becomes clear that advocate Abrahams is seen to be very close to Nomcgobo Jiba, the deputy national director of public prosecutions, who has 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.”
A senior state advocate in the priority crimes litigation unit in the office of the NDPP, Abrahams has more than 17 years’ experience in the prosecution services.
He was involved the terrorism case against Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta [Mend] leader Henry Okah, who was found guilty of 13 terrorism related charges.
Abrahams was also instrumental in the prosecution of three of the four people accused of attempting to carry out an attack on the ANC’s Mangaung conference in 2012. The three were sentenced to eight years in prison.
He successfully prosecuted the leader of the Geloftevolk Republikeine, André Visagie, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court for the illegal possession of five handmade guns and a 9mm pistol, the illegal possession of ammunition and the illegal possession of firearm parts.
In June last year, it was reported that Abrahams had been appointed to head an internal probe by the NPA into the prosecution of convicted former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi. A misconduct complaint was laid by Selebi’s family and lawyers that the prosecution team had not revealed all the evidence in its possession during the former police commissioner’s trial.
Zuma said in a statement on Thursday he was confident Abrahams’s appointment would enhance the efficiency of the National Prosecuting Authority.
“Advocate Abrahams has 17 years of experience in the prosecution service. During this period, he has accumulated vast experience and has gained impeccable technical expertise,” said Zuma.
Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesperson for the justice and correctional services ministry said Abrahams was a determined prosecutor who loved his job.
“We needed someone with prosecutorial experience like Abrahams to lead the NPA,” said Mhaga.
Abrahams holds Baccalareus [B juris], Baccalaureus Procurationis [B Proc] and Bachelor of Laws [LLB] degrees from the University of Natal, now Kwa-Zulu Natal University.
- Additional reporting by Qaanitah Hunter