NPA’s Shaun Abrahams prepares to argue for his future

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National Director of Public Prosecutions (NPA) Shaun Abrahams will argue alone at the Constitutional Court on Wednesday that his appointment is valid. His appointment was set aside by a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court.

He and former President Jacob Zuma took the matter to the highest court in the land, but President Ramaphosa has withdrawn the Presidency appeal.

SABC Political Reporter, Nthakoana Ngatane looks at the line of NPA bosses since 1994 and how they interacted with the Zuma corruption charges.

Of the seven holders of the title National Director of Public Prosecutions since 1994, three were appointed during Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe’s tenures in 17 years.

However, Jacob Zuma alone went through four NPA bosses in 9 years. All seven had to deal with Zuma’s corruption charges and the last one and incumbent Abrahams is now appealing a High Court decision nullifying his appointment, because Zuma may have appointed him, believing he would be lenient.

The first National Director of Public Prosecutions after democracy was Bulelani Ngcuka, who was appointed in 1998.

In 2003, Ngcuka said there was a prima facie case against Zuma related to Shabir Shaik and the arms deal, but Ngcuka said the case could not be won. He resigned in 2004 after unproven allegations that he was a spy and misused the NPA.

In 2005, Vusi Pikoli took over as NPA boss. After Shaik was found guilty, President Mbeki relieved Zuma of his duties as Deputy President.

However, Mbeki also suspended Pikoli in 2007 citing an “a breakdown in the relationship between him and the Minister of Justice.”

He established a Commission of Inquiry headed by Dr Frene Ginwala to determine Pikoli’s (conduct) but allegations were rife that Mbeki suspended Pikoli to shield then Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi who Pikoli had charged with corruption and was found guilty.

In 2007, Zuma became ANC president in Polokwane. Ten days later, Zuma was charged with fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering by Pikoli.

Following Mbeki’s recall, Kgalema Montlanthe removed Pikoli, but he couldn’t appoint a permanent Director until the legalities regarding the removal of Pikoli had been resolved by the courts.

Motlanthe appointed Mokotedi Mpshe as Acting NPA head. It was during Mpshe’s time that the  “spy-tapes saga” surfaced, recordings former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former NPA boss, Bulelani Ngcuka allegedly discussing how to charge Zuma and discredit him at the Polokwane elections.

Based on the “spy-tapes” Mpshe withdrew Zuma’s charges and his decision was endorsed by The High Court in Durban. The Supreme Court overturned the decision, but the NPA went ahead and dropped the charges.

In 2009, Zuma became President, and he appointed the fourth NPA boss, in another acting capacity, Menzi Simelane.

In 2012, the Constitutional Court found that President Jacob Zuma acted irrationally when appointing Simelane.

Zuma appointed Nomgcobo Jiba also acting. In 2016, Jiba was struck off the roll by the North Gauteng High Court.

Among her sins, she allegedly attempted to frame former Hawks Major General Johan Booysen to stop him from investigating cases of corruption involving President Zuma’s family.

In 2013, Zuma appointed Mxolisi Nxasana, but later announced an inquiry to determine whether Nxasana was fit and proper to hold office.

The inquiry was terminated as Nxasana agreed to resign and walked away with a R17 million golden handshake for the remainder of his 10-year-contract.

Enter the 7th NPA boss, Shawn Abrahams in 2015, appointed by Zuma. Since the Zuma charges were dropped DA has been demanding  that they be reinstated, and that the contents of the “spy tapes” be made public.

The DA won both, and in 2016 The North Gauteng High Court ruled that the decision by the NPA to drop the charges was irrational.

Zuma and the NPA appealed, but the Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s ruling to reinstate the charges. Following that appeal, it was left to the NPA to charge or not to charge Zuma.

Abrahams gave Zuma 30 days to state why he shouldn’t be charged by the end of November, and then extended that deadline by another month.

Zuma made submissions just hours before the second deadline of 31st of January. Abrahams gave prosecutors two weeks to recommend a decision and they did, but he still hasn’t made the announcement

Abrahams’s appointment was challenged by Freedom Under Law, and on 8 December – the North Gauteng High Court set it aside

The court also ruled that Zuma was conflicted and could not appoint a successor, and went further to say then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa should make the appointment within 60 days.

Both Zuma and Abrahams appealed the ruling, but now that Ramaphosa is President, and not conflicted. It is not clear if he can effect the High Court decision.

Ramaphosa has also withdrawn the Presidency’s appeal, leaving Abrahams to argue his future alone. But analysts say the issue of who should assume the powers of the President when the president is conflicted as in Zuma’s case still needs to be answered.