After a request by Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation for Zuma to suspend NPA boss, Shaun Abrahams, the North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi and the Acting Head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, Dr Torie Pretorius, President Zuma reluctantly wrote to Abrahams asking him to state why he shouldn’t be suspended.
Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga confirmed at the time that the three advocates received the notice – dated November 15, 2016.
The advocates were served the notice over the manner in which they handled the fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former deputy SA Revenue Service commissioner Ivan Pillay and former SARS commissioner Oupa Magashula.
As contained in the notice, Zuma categorically questioned the roles Shaun Abrahams and advocates Sibongile Mzinyathi and Torie Pretorius’ offices played in the Gordhan debacle.
After three months, President Zuma at last, announced in a short statement released on Friday, March 3, 2017, that he will not suspend the trio for their roles in a decision to charge and then subsequently withdraw charges against Gordhan.
He said he couldn’t find any evidence of misconduct or proof that the three are unfit for their positions.
The president said that an inquiry into the trio’s fitness to hold office would be terminated; adding that his decision followed submissions made by the trio on why they should not be suspended pending the outcome of an inquiry into their fitness to hold office.
The statement reads: “Having considered the submissions received from the three prosecutors and concerns raised by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law regarding their conduct… the President could not find substantiation for the claim that Adv Abrahams, Adv Mzinyathi and Dr. Pretorius’s conducts were actuated by ulterior motive or any other improper motive which would give rise to a charge of misconduct or that they are no longer fit and proper to hold office.
There is no “prima facie evidence pointing to the conduct of three prosecutors, constituting misconduct or lack of fitness and propriety.
Taking the aforementioned into consideration the President decided not to provisionally suspend Adv. Abrahams, Adv Mzinyathi and Dr. Pretorius and hold an inquiry into their fitness to hold office.”
On October 31, 2016, Abrahams withdrew fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and two former South African Revenue Service (Sars) officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, to the exasperation of many South Africans.
The NPA boss said he found that Gordhan, Pillay and Magashula lacked the requisite intention to act unlawfully after considering representations tabled before him.
Abrahams and his cohorts were the first to accused Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan of fraud.
Many described the withdrawal of fraud charges against Gordhan and others as the lowest point in the history of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Meanwhile, the Director of the Helen Suzman Foundation Francis Antonie said they would be writing to Zuma on Monday, asking for the letter Abrahams and his colleagues wrote to Zuma. The foundation added that it will press the president to share his full reasons behind his decision.
Also, Freedom Under Law chairman, retired Judge Johan Kriegler said the organization would be meeting its lawyers. The organization argued that Zuma shouldn’t have cleared the trio since their letters weren’t publicized.
The spokesman for the NPA, Luvuyo Mfaku welcomed President Zuma’s decision on Friday.
He said: “We are happy that this is over. We were quite certain that he (Abrahams) had exercised his powers and acted with the right prosecutorial discretion.
We were quite certain that the president would not suspend a prosecutor for acting within this discretion as allowed for in the prosecutions act.”