The decision to charge Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is causing consternation in the ranks of the National Prosecuting Authority.
A number of senior prosecutors have privately messaged City Press to voice their anger and frustration at the announcement by their boss, national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams, that Gordhan had been charged with fraud.
One, an advocate, told City Press yesterday that the “decision to prosecute is legally and materially flawed and won’t stand or fly if challenged in a court of law”.
The advocate lashed out at Abrahams’s decision to have his old unit – which he headed before he was promoted to lead the NPA – be involved in Gordhan’s prosecution.
Abrahams’s former unit is the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit which handles matters such as treason and other crimes against the state.
The advocate continued: “The [unit] which was established by proclamation has no mandate to decide on fraud and/or Public Finance Management Act offences.
“Whether or not such a decision was made in consultation or conjunction with North Gauteng director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi,” the priority crimes litigation unit’s mandate stops, the advocate said, “with the Rome Statute, Truth and Reconciliation Unit matters and crimes against the state”.
“The problem is that Abrahams went public with this and it is irreversible. This is a major f*** up,” the advocate said.
Gordhan is charged with fraud relating to his approval of early retirement of his former deputy, Ivan Pillay, when he was commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).
Pillay was then placed on contract. The NPA has alleged that this is a contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.
However, if the charges related to the operations of the so-called Sars rogue unit, the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit would have been the relevant unit to handle the case.
Another former senior prosecutor questioned why, if the act was so top of mind at the NPA, Abrahams’s legal adviser Dawood Adam and Terrance Joubert, an NPA official in its Durban office, remained in the prosecutions service.
“This needs to be urgently followed for consistency and the public’s sake,” the former senior prosecutor said.
In July, City Press reported that fresh criminal charges were laid against Adam for allegedly using safe houses as holiday homes for NPA bosses and for university accommodation for his children.
He has since reimbursed the NPA for the private use of the safe houses.
The charges of fraud, corruption and theft were laid against him by a former colleague, apparently in revenge after the colleague was fired from the NPA.
At the time, NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke confirmed the case was reopened, but said the “current criminal charges [stemmed] from a disgruntled witness protection official who was recently found guilty of serious misconduct”, and who had since been fired.
The man, however, insisted that he had not been fired.
Joubert has been accused of using an office car for a private trip to the Eastern Cape in breach of the Public Finance Management Act.
In 2012, investigative journalists AmaBhungane also reported his alleged involvement in tender rigging.