Court sends not-so-innocent Shaun Abrahams packing too

In November now outgoing national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams told the high court in Pretoria that it would be unfair to remove him as the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) because he had done nothing to deserve that.

President Jacob Zuma agreed. Kicking Abrahams out would set up an absurd situation where he would have to be paid a “golden handshake”, Zuma’s counsel told the court.

But on Friday the court said Abrahams is not just collateral damage to an unlawful deal struck between Zuma and Abrahams’s predecessor Mxolisi Nxasana – but that Abrahams’s own conduct was unbefitting the position.

When Abrahams joined with Zuma to fight the challenge to Nxasana’s removal, he “associated himself, inconsistent with the imperative of prosecutorial independence, on all material issues with the position of the president” the court said in its judgment.

At the same time, he failed to accept a high court judgment pertaining to his disgraced deputy Nomgcobo Jiba and defended her in a manner that suggested he cared more about where complaints against her had come from than the nature of the complaints.

While the court went nowhere near a finding that Abrahams is not fit to hold the office, it did note that what it sought was “a result that underscores the imperative of non-interference in the independence of the NPA and its national director”.

As a result, the court gave Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa until February to appoint somebody in Abrahams’s place. If Ramaphosa fails to make such an appointment by that deadline, Abrahams would lose his job in any event.

In terms of the judgment – which Zuma on Friday indicated he would appeal before even receiving a full briefing on it – the next national director will be in a stronger position than any who have come before. It can not be that a president can be suspended the prosecutions head indefinitely without pay, the court said, so it effectively rewrote the law. Henceforth such a suspension will be possible for a maximum of only six months, and must be with full pay.

“If the office of the NDPP is to stand alone, apart from and independently of the Executive, Parliament and the Courts, in service only of the Constitution and the rule of law, then its independence must be real, and must be supported by a statutory structure that protects the office from outside pressure of any kind,” read the judgement.

The court found that though Zuma and Nxasana may not have intended to respectively bribe and be bribed, both showed a reckless disregard for the law when Zuma used R17.3 million in public money to get Nxasana to leave his office.

Nxasana, the court found, held out until he got his exorbitant price, and Zuma was prepared to pay that price. Neither could be rewarded for such actions, so Nxasana could not be allowed to return to the job even though his removal had not been valid, and Zuma could not be allowed to keep his appointee Abrahams in the job, or appoint a different successor.

In the 10 years of the Zuma administration, during which he faced the threat of a corruption prosecution, South Africa had ten permanent NDPPs. Each had been due to serve a 10-year term.

Phillip De Wet
Guest Author
Advertisting

EFF ‘circus’ becomes contagion as MPs heckle Malema

ANC MPs test the EFF’s disruptive tactics on the leader of the Red Berets in Sona reply

Ramaphosa ‘neutral’ in Mkhwebane, Parliament impeachment row

However, the president says even if he has a conflict of interest, another Cabinet member could suspend the public protector

Strike-off case pulls in judge

Judge Mushtak Parker is implicated in an application to strike off his former partners. He is also involved in the fight between the Western Cape high court’s judge president and his deputy

One strike and you’re out – registrar tells unions

A municipal workers’ union is the first to be sanctioned for not following the new rule when deciding whether to go on strike
Advertising

Press Releases

Response to the report of the independent assessors

VUT welcomes the publishing of the report of the independent assessors to investigate concerns of poor governance, leadership, management, corruption and fraud at the university.

NWU student receives international award

Carol-Mari Schulz received the Bachelor of Health Sciences in Occupational Hygiene Top Achiever Award.

Academic programme resumes at all campuses

Lectures, practicals, seminars and tutorials will all resume today as per specific academic timetables.

Strategic social investments are a catalyst for social progress

Barloworld Mbewu enables beneficiaries to move away from dependence on grant funding

We all have a part to play to make South Africa work

Powering societal progress demands partnerships between all stakeholders

So you want to be a social entrepreneur?

Do the research first; it will save money and time later

Social entrepreneurship means business

Enterprises with a cause at their core might be exactly what our economy desperately needs

Looking inwards

Businesses are finding tangible ways to give back – but only because consumers demand it