Ramaphosa will have to face conundrum on Abrahams's fitness for office

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams / ALON SKUY
Shaun Abrahams National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams / ALON SKUY
Image: ALON SKUY

Recent reports suggest that President Cyril Ramaphosa is awaiting two Constitutional Court judgments before deciding whether or not to show the NPA head Advocate Shaun Abrahams the door.

This is according to a Mail & Guardian report following DA MP Choloane David Matsepe's question to the president in parliament. He wanted to know if Ramaphosa intended to remove Abrahams, and "if not, why not".

Matsepe asked whether Ramaphosa was of the view "that the NPA was capable of executing its mandate under Abrahams's incumbent leadership".

And to this Ramaphosa was vague, and briefly stated with much diplomacy, that "the effectiveness of law enforcement institutions depended to a great extent on capable and credible management".

He said the government, as encapsulated in his State of the Nation Address, was "working to ensure that the entire leadership of the National Prosecuting Authority is strengthened".

I suppose until such time as Abrahams's appeal is satisfied and the Constitutional Court gives judgment, we are stuck with Abrahams. This is despite the fact that he has displayed great unfitness to hold office and lack of integrity.

In brief, Abrahams managed to entangle himself in politics, wittingly or otherwise. As head of the NPA, Abrahams ensured that former president Jacob Zuma continued to evade prosecution, while he relentlessly wanted to charge former finance minister [Pravin] Gordhan with what appeared to be a trumped-up charge.

In a turnabout, upon change of political leadership, Abrahams gained the courage to charge former president Zuma, upon considering his representations.

Some of his decisions regarding one of his former lieutenants, Nomgcobo Jiba, were set aside by the court last year. This was after he withdrew perjury and fraud charge against Jiba, who has now been struck off the roll of advocates, for among other things, lack of fitness to hold office. She was found not to be "a fit and proper person".

Section 9 of the National Prosecuting Act states a person functioning in Jiba's post, for example, is required to be "a fit and proper person, with due regard to his or her experience, conscientiousness and integrity, to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office concerned".

Abrahams, like Jiba, has been granted leave to appeal, and has made the most of it. The NPA argues that Abrahams was validly appointed into a vacancy created at the end of Dr Silas Ramaite's stint as acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).

Even so, while the validity of the appointment is actually what is placed before the court, ultimately does Abrahams think he is a fit and proper person for this job?

And while the court is to decide on the validity of his appointment, whether he is the correct person to head an institution such as the NPA, is ultimately what Ramaphosa will have to consider.

Let's say the courts do find his appointment to be valid, this will not make him the correct person to head the NPA. This is because he has compromised himself beyond measure.

As mentioned previously, such a job requires a person to be "fit and proper, with due regard to his or her experience, conscientiousness and integrity, to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office concerned". His decisions, up to the time his keeper lost all power, tell us he is not fit and proper.

When struck off the roll, the judge lamented Jiba's behaviour as the kind which "diminishes the image of the country and its institutions which are meant to be impartial and independent." Jiba and Abrahams are cut from the same cloth.

What this trend shows is how the morally bankrupt are able to delay processes by using the judicial system to their advantage.

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