The withdrawal of fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former heads of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) represents the lowest point in the history of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The previous time the NPA was at this crossroads was in 2003 when Advocate Bulelani Ngcuka announced the state had a prima facie case against (then deputy president) Jacob Zuma, but that it wasn’t “winnable”. Ngcuka resigned shortly afterwards.
Abrahams has dragged the NPA down in the dumps when he prematurely announced on October 11 that Gordhan, Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula would be charged with fraud.
The only thing abundantly clear from Monday’s press conference, where Abrahams tried to filibuster with technicalities to deflect the shame away from his sweaty forehead, was the utter incompetence of everyone involved in this case.
Abrahams’ refusal to resign or publicly state that he will take disciplinary steps against Advocate Torie Pretorius, who allegedly decided to prosecute Gordhan, proves his own unfitness to hold this position.
If Abrahams had the slightest respect for the office of the NDPP and the sacrosanctity of the NPA, he would take the fall. Now he has thrown Pretorius and the Hawks under the bus.
Even if the Hawks messed up, which they did, it has always been and will always be the responsibility of the NPA to determine when to take a case to court (or when not). Fit and proper prosecutors all over the country send police officers packing on a daily basis.
One would have thought that before he went on national television for an hour to explain why the NPA was charging the finance minister criminally – sending the currency into freefall – Abrahams would have interrogated every single bit of the case, chiefly the issue of intention.
To convict Gordhan of fraud, the NPA would have had to prove to the court that he (Gordhan) had the intention of stealing money from the state when he approved an early pension for Pillay. This requirement was simply never there.
Which poses the uncomfortable question: why all the pomp and ceremony on October 11 when Abrahams didn’t have a case? Why embarrass Gordhan so shortly before the mini-budget speech and send the rand into a tailspin?
Why play with the future and political stability of our country and economy without having done the most basic of inquiries to establish whether you have enough to justify a criminal prosecution?
Was the goal to embarrass Gordhan, not to convict him?
Are you playing political games with the trust and power bestowed on you, Shaun Abrahams?
You are unfit and improper to continue as NDPP. You should quit and leave in shame. Today.