There will be few – outside Jacob Zuma’s inner circle, that is – who will rue the fact that Shaun Abrahams (unkindly, or perhaps accurately, referred to as “Shaun the Sheep”) has been put out to pasture after the Constitutional Court ruled his appointment as head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was illegal.
Abrahams was appointed by Zuma while he was president in what appears to be part of a complicated strategy to ward off any serious probes into anything related to state capture.
The court ruled Zuma had also illegally removed the previous NPA head, Mxolisi Nxasana, from office with a R17.3 million “golden handshake”, to make way for Abrahams. Nxasana has been ordered to pay back R10 million of that amount.
It is heartening that the Constitutional Court decision has shown, once again, the strength and independence of the judiciary. This power of the courts was, effectively, what started the decline and fall of Zuma after he was found by the chief justice to have acted against the constitution in his role as president. This decision is a warning to politicians that they cannot try to control the institutions of justice.
That judicial strength is our insurance policy, as citizens, against the government of the day riding roughshod over our wishes.
The problem now for President Cyril Ramaphosa is who will replace Abrahams.
Ramaphosa should use this opportunity to ensure the house-cleaning at the NPA is not undone. He should also move quickly on this to send a strong message, both locally and abroad, that the ANC government believes in, and supports, the rule of law.
The person who replaces Abrahams must be beyond reproach and must be loyal to the people of South Africa, not to the ANC or the president.