CityPress - - News - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­press.co.za

ow did you know about my ap­point­ment be­fore me?” new Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) head Shaun Abra­hams asked as we sat down for an in­ter­view in his new of­fice. Abra­hams, whose ap­point­ment was con­firmed only a few days af­ter City Press pre­dicted he would be ap­pointed, is ex­cited about his new po­si­tion. He is up­beat and even be­lieves he can com­plete his term of of­fice with­out ac­cept­ing a “golden hand­shake”.

How­ever, none of his pre­de­ces­sors has com­pleted a full term.

The most re­cent of them, Mx­olisi Nx­as­ana, left of­fice with a golden hand­shake worth mil­lions af­ter fall­ing out with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. This was shortly af­ter an in­quiry into Nx­as­ana’s fit­ness to hold of­fice had to be aban­doned the day be­fore it was meant to start.

Abra­hams (39), who might face the dilemma of de­cid­ing whether to re­in­state cor­rup­tion charges against the pres­i­dent, says he is pre­pared to charge any­one – in­clud­ing Zuma – if he is bound by “facts and cir­cum­stances”.

He is the youngest per­son to have taken up this key po­si­tion.

Although he was born in the Western Cape, he prefers to see him­self as a “Zulu boy”, hav­ing spent most of his child­hood in uM­gun­gundlovu out­side Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

“When I tell peo­ple I am a Zulu boy, no­body wants to be­lieve it,” he laughs be­fore he tells his life story.

Abra­hams’ mother, An­nie, was a teacher and his fa­ther, Neels, worked in con­struc­tion.

He started out as a clerk in the of­fice of the at­tor­neygen­eral (nowa­days the di­rec­tor of public pros­e­cu­tions) at the ten­der age of 19 in 1994.

He stud­ied part time at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal and, when he ob­tained a BJuris de­gree, re­ceived a del­e­ga­tion to pros­e­cute from the province’s at­tor­neygen­eral in 1997. Abra­hams rose through the ranks and, be­fore this ap­point­ment, was a se­nior state ad­vo­cate in the pri­or­ity crimes lit­i­ga­tion unit’s of­fice.

He comes from a re­li­gious fam­ily and de­scribes his ca­reer achieve­ments as be­ing “de­signed and or­dained by God”.

Abra­hams seems un­per­turbed by the rocky road for­mer na­tional di­rec­tors of public pros­e­cu­tions have walked be­fore him.

There is a belief that the NPA job is the quick­est way to end the ca­reers of se­nior lawyers. For­mer NPA heads with more po­lit­i­cal clout than Abra­hams have fallen, many af­ter dis­agree­ments with their po­lit­i­cal heads and the pres­i­dent.

“I am op­ti­mistic about com­plet­ing a full term. I as­pire to do so,” he says.

“When I ac­cepted the of­fer, I was ex­tremely mind­ful of the chal­lenges all my pre­de­ces­sors had faced.”

Those chal­lenges in­clude restor­ing morale in the NPA and in­still­ing public con­fi­dence in the in­sti­tu­tion.

He says this will not be a tough task for him, as he has the abil­ity to unite, en­gage and in­te­grate key stake­hold­ers in the in­sti­tu­tions of law en­force­ment and jus­tice.

Abra­hams has in­her­ited an or­gan­i­sa­tion where staff morale is at an all-time low and there is a lack of trust in its lead­er­ship. He faces the daunt­ing task of unit­ing a di­vided or­gan­i­sa­tion that has seen se­nior ex­ec­u­tives pub­licly voic­ing their dif­fer­ences with each other.

Se­nior NPA ex­ec­u­tives are di­vided and fall within fac­tions that work against each other, of­ten un­der­min­ing the in­sti­tu­tion and the se­ri­ous cases it has to han­dle.

He prom­ises to deal with any cases where se­nior pros­e­cu­tions of­fi­cers have been ac­cused of not liv­ing up to the prin­ci­ples and val­ues of the pro­fes­sion.

The fa­ther of three has han­dled sev­eral high-pro­file cases, in­clud­ing that of late AWB leader Eugène Terre’Blanche when he was charged with ter­ror­ism and sabotage com­mit­ted be­fore 1994, and Nige­rian Henry Okah, the leader of the Move­ment for the Eman­ci­pa­tion of the Niger Delta, who is now serv­ing time in a South African jail.

In what could be another stern test, Abra­hams has called on the pros­e­cu­tion team to brief him on the mat­ter in­volv­ing sus­pended crime in­tel­li­gence head Richard Md­luli.

“I have called on the pros­e­cu­tion to brief me about the de­tails of the case and will en­gage the na­tional com­mis­sioner, Riah Phiyega, re­gard­ing the de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of doc­u­ments re­quired in the mat­ter,” he said.

The case against Md­luli was with­drawn in the Pre­to­ria Spe­cialised Com­mer­cial Crimes Court two weeks ago. The court struck the fraud case against Md­luli off the roll af­ter key doc­u­ments could not be de­clas­si­fied.

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