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Civic rights bodies in court to compel Zuma to suspend prosecutions boss Abrahams

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and Freedom Under Law (FUL) are on Thursday going ahead with an application to compel President Jacob Zuma to fire National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams over the botched prosecution of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The matter, which will be heard in North Gauteng High Court, will go ahead even though Zuma has already asked Abrahams to give him reasons why he should not be suspended.

Abrahams has faced unrelenting criticism after he withdrew fraud charges he had earlier levelled against Gordhan and two former SA Revenue Service (Sars) employees, Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, over the latter’s early retirement with full benefits.

HSF and FUL want Zuma to act against Abrahams and head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, Torie Pretorius, and North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi.

Zuma and Abrahams filed answering papers to the application after the President put out a statement saying he had written to Abrahams, Pretorius, and Mzinyathi asking them to make representations on why they should not be suspended pending an inquiry into their fitness to hold office.

However, three days later, the two civic rights groups announced they were proceeding with their application.

“The President has given no indication as to when the decision to suspend itself will be taken. It seems, therefore, that the President intends, for reasons he has not explained, to draw out and delay the process unnecessary and unlawfully,” HSF and FUL said in a joint statement at the time.

“This is particularly unacceptable in circumstances where he has clearly misconstrued his powers and has closed his mind on the topic of suspension and enquiry.”

HSF and FUL said they did not understand why Zuma asked the three to make representations when they could defend the allegations at a disciplinary inquiry.

“The answering papers, despite their prolixity, make out no substantive case for the President not to suspend the relevant prosecutors and not to institute the disciplinary enquiries mandated in terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, 1998,” the statement said.

“With public confidence in the NPA in tatters, and threats of fresh charges against Minister Gordhan being mulled by the compromised Mr Abrahams and his subordinates, any further delay by the President has the potential to be catastrophic.

“HSF and FUL are thus proceeding with the application to vindicate the requirement of lawful and rational government conduct, and to uphold the public interest.”

The case will be heard by a full bench.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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