Gord­han throws down le­gal chal­lenge to NPA

Threat to have High Court as­sess va­lid­ity of ‘frivolous’ charges

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DODDS and YAZEED KAMAL­DIEN

BACK off, ex­plain your­self and show us the ev­i­dence or face a court re­view of the de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han.

That was the chal­lenge thrown down to Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions Shaun Abra­hams af­ter the min­is­ter yes­ter­day re­jected his of­fer of an op­por­tu­nity to make rep­re­sen­ta­tions as to why the pros­e­cu­tion should not con­tinue.

Not only is Gord­han tak­ing ad­vice from a high-pow­ered team in­clud­ing Wim Tren­gove, Hamilton Maenetje and Ziyaad Navsa on how to “bring the mat­ter to an ex­pe­dited fi­nal­ity”, but for­mer Con­sti­tu­tional Court Judge Jo­hann Kriegler, on be­half of Free­dom Un­der Law, and the He­len Suz­man Foun­da­tion, have threat­ened to ask the High Court to ex­am­ine the va­lid­ity and vi­a­bil­ity of the charges “with a view to cut­ting short the pros­e­cu­tion”.

Amid wide­spread pub­lic out­rage over the pros­e­cu­tion of Gord­han and its im­pact on the econ­omy, in­clud­ing the voices of ANC and gov­ern­ment heavy­weights, Abra­hams ap­peared to be back­track­ing when he sug­gested at a meet­ing of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on jus­tice this week that Gord­han could ap­proach him to re­view the de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute.

But the min­is­ter gave a scathing re­sponse via his lawyers, say­ing he had no con­fi­dence in Abra­hams’s “abil­ity or will­ing­ness to af­ford him a fair hear­ing”.

His lawyers had pre­vi­ously asked re­peat­edly for an op­por­tu­nity to make rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the NPA, but “they spurned our re­quests”, Te­bogo Malatji said on be­half of the min­is­ter’s le­gal team.

Abra­hams had also made his com­mit­ment to the pros­e­cu­tion clear.

Kriegler said Free­dom Un­der Law and the He­len Suz­man Foun­da­tion had had the charges an­a­lysed and “were pleased but not sur­prised to be ad­vised that they are on the face of it legally flawed and fac­tu­ally un­founded”.

In a let­ter ad­dressed to Abra­hams on be­half of the NGOs, law firm Web­ber Wentzel picks apart the al­le­ga­tions, show­ing it was within the rules of the Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees’ Pen­sion Fund and rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion for him to ap­prove deputy SARS com­mis­sioner Ivan Pil­lay’s early re­tir­ment, to re­hire him on con­tract and for Sars to pay the early re­tire­ment penalty on his be­half.

This de­ci­sion is the ba­sis of the fraud charge against Gord­han and the al­ter­na­tive charge of theft for which he is due to ap­pear in court on Novem­ber 2.

“The charges, such as they are, are un­sus­tain­able in law and fact and may be ac­tu­ated by con­scious reck­less­ness or ul­te­rior pur­poses,” the let­ter states.

Cab­i­net min­is­ters Ebrahim Pa­tel and Derek Hanekom have also sup­ported their col­league, while Robben Is­land vet­eran Ahmed Kathrada, for­mer pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe, for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter Bar­bara Ho­gan and other high-pro­file fig­ures have said they will be at court on Novem­ber 2.

Mean­while, Gord­han was defiant yes­ter­day as he told in­ter­na­tional busi­ness lead­ers gath­ered in Cape Town he was “here to stay”.

Speak­ing from Pretoria, he called the fraud charges “frivolous” and joked that his “spine is still very straight”.

“As far as the per­se­cu­tion and po­lit­i­cal mis­chief that I have been sub­jected to, it is im­mense po­lit­i­cal noise. These are con­test­ing forces as you would have in any po­lit­i­cal party. It is up to the pub­lic to judge who wants so­cial jus­tice more than any­one else,” he de­clared.

On his re­la­tion­ship with the ANC, Gord­han said this re­mained solid: “I’m an ANC-associated per­son for 45 years. We are not about to give up on the core val­ues of the ANC.”

He said he would al­low the le­gal process to un­fold.

“Ev­ery cred­i­ble le­gal ex­pert in South Africa has com­mented. It’s im­por­tant to know that these charges do not con­sti­tute fraud. These are frivolous charges,” he said, adding that “as ac­tivists, we do not sit down qui­etly when an in­jus­tice is done”.

On the econ­omy, he promised to con­vince the rat­ings agen­cies South Africa was still a work­ing democ­racy with a bright fu­ture.

He was pre­par­ing for midterm bud­get state­ment later this month.

“I have ev­ery in­ten­tion of de­liv­er­ing that bud­get state­ment,” he said. craig.dodds@inl.co.za yazeed.kamal­dien@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han in his of­fice in Pretoria, af­ter speak­ing via video link to a Thom­son Reuters in­vest­ment con­fer­ence in Cape Town yes­ter­day.

PIC­TURE: MASI LOSI

Ad­vo­cate Dali Mpofu, rep­re­sent­ing the UDM and Cope, walks with ad­vo­cate Tem­beka Ngcukaitobi, rep­re­sent­ing the EFF, to the Pretoria High Court.

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