Former NPA head sets up as lead prosecutor in major politically charged corruption case
Former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shaun Abrahams has found a new job, and it’s in Botswana.
Abrahams, who left his position as National Director of Public Prosecutions after the Constitutional Court declared his appointment unlawful, is now the lead prosecutor heading a multimillion-pula corruption case in South Africa’s neighbouring country.
City Press has learnt that he was appointed two months ago after being approached to lead the prosecution team in a politically charged case involving supposed allies of former Botswana president Ian Khama, who are alleged to have looted 250 million pula (R338 million) from that country’s National Petroleum Fund.
A prosecutor familiar with the developments said: “Abrahams has been working in Botswana for some months now. I think it is best for him to do something in life after his disastrous career at the NPA.”
Abrahams did not respond to calls and messages from City Press on Friday and Saturday, but two of his former colleagues confirmed that he had taken the job in Botswana.
Abrahams’ handling of matters relating to former president Jacob Zuma was criticised by a full bench of the Pretoria High Court in 2017, which found that his appointment was unlawful and set it aside.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo ruled that Abrahams was biased in his dealings with Zuma, should vacate his office, and that then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa should appoint a replacement within 60 days because Zuma was “conflicted”.
However, Abrahams appealed against the ruling, but it was later confirmed by the Constitutional Court.
In Botswana, Abrahams appeared for the state for the first time on Thursday before the Broadhurst Magistrates’ Court in Gaborone, where the accused parties in the matter were demanding that the state reveal further particulars about the case they were facing.
The controversial case has among its accused a sitting judge, Justice Zein Kebonang; his cousin Sadique Bakang, who is a former Cabinet minister; Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority executive director Mogomotsi Seretse; and businessperson Kago Stimela.
Abrahams’ Botswana debut got off to a rocky start, with one of the lawyers telling local reporters that they would not allow him to disrespect them after Abrahams accused them in court of “talking some hot air”.
The lawyers said Abrahams’ approach in future would determine how they would treat him.
The case has caused many divisions in Botswana, with some saying the country’s law enforcement agencies were being used to settle political scores by the new administration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is at loggerheads with his predecessor, Khama.
However, Masisi’s supporters say he is a corruption buster and has identified this case as his administration’s first “trophy” in the fight against corruption, and that he has vowed to throw everything at the accused in the National Petroleum Fund.
The case has been beset by several postponements, mostly at the insistence of the prosecution, with the charges being either reduced or altered, and several amendments being made to the charge sheet.
The case centres on the alleged looting of funds that were transferred to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services for the construction of fuel storage tanks. The money was diverted for the purchase of military hardware from Israel.
The accused face charges ranging from money laundering, abuse of office, theft and giving false information to a person employed in the public service.