Zuma, Hawks raise concerns about Shaun Abrahams' fitness to hold office

President Jacob Zuma has written to NPA head Shaun Abrahams, asking him to make representations as to why he should not place him on suspension, pending the outcome of an inquiry into his fitness to hold office. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma has written to NPA head Shaun Abrahams, asking him to make representations as to why he should not place him on suspension, pending the outcome of an inquiry into his fitness to hold office. (AFP)

Both the Presidency and the Hawks have written letters to national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams in the midst of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to withdraw charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. President Jacob Zuma has asked Abrahams to justify why he should not be suspended. 

“I hereby afford you an opportunity to make written representations as to why I should not place you on suspension pending the outcome of an inquiry into your fitness to hold office,” President Zuma wrote to Abrahams.

Eyewitness News has released a short extract of the letter the Presidency sent Abrahams, which states that Abrahams has until November 28 to make representations to keep his job. 

A heated exchange in letters between Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza and Abrahams has also surfaced. Ntlemeza sent a letter to Abrahams the day before the charges against Gordhan were dropped. The Hawks head accused Abrahams of breaking under political pressure and civil society scrutiny.

“Further it is our considered view that your decision is not made in good faith on evidence that we have gathered as an investigative agency in this matter. Rather, it seems to us that you make this decision based on the noise made by politicians, civil society lobby groups and the media sympathetic to the accused,” Ntlemeza wrote to Gordhan.

Extracts from the letter were released by Eyewitness News, along with the near-complete body of Abrahams’ response to Ntlemeza. The letters surfaced in court papers Abrahams filed in response to the court application submitted by Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation to have Abrahams suspended.

Ntlemeza’s letter notes media reports anticipating that Abrahams would make an announcement on the Gordhan case. The Hawks head goes on to say that politicians, civil society groups and media reports “falsely accused” the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of charging Gordhan “on the instructions of political masters which is utter nonsense”.

After he delves into the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to hold perpetrators to account based on sound evidence “irrespective of who the perpetrator is”, Ntlemeza expresses concern about Abrahams’ conduct.

“We are extremely concerned about your reported prevaricating stance with regard to the prosecution of the accused persons in this matter and which will bring the administration of justice and the law enforcement agencies into serious disrepute in this country,” Ntlemeza wrote.

Abrahams, in his response, said that the Hawks had neglected to submit senior South African Revenue Service (Sars) official Vlok Symington’s legal opinion that Ivan Pillay’s retirement payout was above board. 

The debacle around Pillay’s retirement payout was the basis on which the National Prosecuting Authority accused Gordhan and Oupa Magashula, another former Sars offical, of fraud. The charges were dropped in November. 

“I take umbrage at the very serious allegations you levelled against me of not having acted in good faith. Speaking of good faith, kindly advise me how did it come about that the memorandum of Mr Symington, by way of example, only surfaced on October 14 2016, when Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation wrote to me?,” Abrahams wrote.

The Presidency, in its letter to Abrahams, says that there will be an inquiry into Abrahams’ to fitness to hold office. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

Client Media Releases

Mandela Bay to welcome iconic solar-powered race cars
Tender awarded for SA's longest cable-stayed bridge
MTN backs SA's youth to 'think tech, do business'
Being intelligent about business data
PhD for 79-year-old theology graduate