Embattled National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Advocate Shaun Abrahams has confirmed that an investigation into a covert intelligence unit established at the SA revenue service (Sars), allegedly under the auspices of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, is at an advanced stage.
Appearing before parliament’s justice portfolio committee after his decision on Monday to drop fraud charges against Gordhan and two former senior Sars officials, Abrahams faced a barrage of critical questions from MPs who expressed concern over the prosecutions body being used to fight ANC factional battles.
Abrahams defended the NPA’s independence, saying there was a misconception that the institution had been “captured”, after he was asked about the NPA’s independence by the committee’s chairperson Mathole Motshekga.
“This parliament and the people of South Africa can’t afford to have an organisation like the office of the director of public prosecution which is not independent and credible because this office lies at the heart of our criminal justice system,” Motshekga said.
Abrahams replied: “There is not an iota of proof of political interference in this matter … the matter of political interference is much publicised in the media and is very much self-created.
“I can assure this committee, the initial decision to prosecute Minister Gordhan was not a politically motivated decision, and further to reemphasise that the fact that the charges were withdrawn should be testament to my independence as the national director of public prosecutions.
“Chairperson, I have not been captured by anyone, and so is the NPA!
“Captured by whom, can anybody answer that question, captured by whom?” a defiant Abrahams said to legislatures, dismissing accusations that he was being “captured” to further certain political interests.
Abrahams also revealed that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, wrote to him asking him not to drop fraud charges against Gordhan and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay.
He also said Magashula and Pillay were accorded a fair and dignified hearing by prosecutors.
Asked about his contentious visit to meet President Jacob Zuma and ANC officials at the ruling party’s headquarters in Johannesburg on the eve of announcing fraud charges against the trio last month, Abrahams said he had to cancel an appointment with his dentist to attend the Luthuli House meeting.
He said he wasn’t aware Zuma would be attending the meeting, as he was invited at the request of Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
He also stuck to his guns in refusing to apologise for the failed prosecution against Gordhan and his previous co-accused.
When asked by Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach why he wasn’t accompanied by his senior prosecutors to the briefing to answer questions, Abrahams said he did “not deem it necessary”.
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The minister was charged with fraud for approving early retirement for Pillay and rehiring him as a consultant later, costing the tax agency more than R1.1 million.
The charges were widely criticised by legal analysts, who said the case had no legal basis and would not succeed in a court of law.
– Additional reporting African News Agency