NPA boss under fire

INDEPENDENCE QUESTIONED: National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams addresses a media conference in Pretoria yesterday. Picture: ALON SKUY
INDEPENDENCE QUESTIONED: National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams addresses a media conference in Pretoria yesterday. Picture: ALON SKUY

Abrahams defends decision to appeal ruling to reinstate Zuma charges

DOUBTS over the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) loomed large over the organisation yesterday as its head, Shaun Abrahams, decided to appeal against a high court ruling calling for the reinstatement of charges against President Jacob Zuma.

This, as a Western Cape High Court judgment suggested the NPA’s troubles were far from over, saying the case involving NPA deputy Nomgcobo Jiba has “layers of intrigue involving allegations of career sabotage, power struggles and political interference of the NPA”.

Defending his decision, Abrahams said the principles went beyond the Zuma case, and that the judgment constrained the powers of prosecutors.

“If the high court’s judgment is now general principle, then prosecutors are denuded of much of their powers,” he said.

Political and legal analysts have called Abrahams’s decision both a blow to and confirmation of the NPA’s independence.

The North Gauteng High Court ruled last month that then NPA acting head Mokotedi Mphse’s decision to drop 783 charges of fraud‚ corruption and racketeering related to the arms deal against Zuma – who was president of the ANC at the time – was irrational.

Mpshe dropped the charges because he believed Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy had manipulated the timing of when to serve the indictment against Zuma in December 2007.

Yesterday, Institute for Accountability director Paul Hofmann slammed Abrahams’s decision as ill-advised, saying he had lost the opportunity to prove his independence and should have left the DA and Zuma to fight it out.

“The fact that he has not done so and that he has put out weak grounds for the appeal suggests, to the objective observer, that he is not independent as he projects to be,” Hofmann said.

However, Tshwane University of Technology political analyst Professor Lucky Mathebula supported Abrahams.

“It is a move towards defending the prosecutorial powers against the judiciary,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape High Court’s decision not to overturn Jiba’s appointment has led to another debate on the NPA’s independence.

In his ruling, Judge Mokgoatji Dolamo said the court would steer clear of any inquiry into allegations of political power plays and struggles.

Dolamo said he did not agree with the DA’s simplistic view that the allegations against Jiba were serious enough to warrant investigation.

The party intends to appeal against the decision. – Additional reporting by Franny Rabkin

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