Abrahams: Charging Gordhan was not an incompetent move

Shaun Abrahams says the decision to prosecute Pravin Gordhan was sound in law and made on available facts.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams addresses the media relating to charges being dropped against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and two former SARS employees Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula at the NPA's head office in Pretoria. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

PRETORIA - Prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams says it’s unfair to suggest it was incompetence on the part of the prosecutor or the Hawks which led to the decision to prosecute Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Abrahams was speaking in Pretoria this morning where he announced his decision to withdraw the charges against Gordhan as well as former Sars officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay.

The advocate says he reached his decision after considering a memorandum drafted in 2009 which showed the accused did not have the intention to act unlawfully.

Abrahams said the decision to prosecute Gordhan was sound in law and made on the facts available at the time and this new evidence emerged at a later stage.

“This document only came to the attention of the prosecutors for the first time by way of the submissions by Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation and Mr Pillay.”

He doesn’t believe this case was a blunder.

“The issue around incompetence, I really think it’s an unfair question as so far it is directed at the investigators, the prosecutors, the special director and myself.”

And Abrahams says he doesn’t owe anyone an apology.

While taking questions this afternoon after the briefing, Abrahams was asked whether he was embarrassed or disappointed by the debacle. He told journalists he would not like to answer that question.

He explained that since the decision to institute the prosecution, he had received representations from Magashula and Pillay, while Gordhan declined to make any submissions.

He defended his initial decision to prosecute the three, saying that at the time the available evidence showed there was a case to answer to.

Abrahams explained that the decision was taken by the acting head of the priority crimes litigation unit.

He also referred to the applicable law which stated that he was then entitled to review that decision.

In response to a question about the impact of this case on the country, Abrahams said this case was handled like any other case considered by the prosecuting authority.

Meanwhile, the ANC now says it’s very unhappy with how the NPA has handled the case against Gordhan and the fact that it publicly announced charges when it didn't have a proper case against him.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said, “What is left of us now, including the leadership of the country, is to protect the integrity and independence of that institution. Hence the authority must decide whether indeed it wants to take any action.”

But he would not be drawn on whether the party wanted President Zuma to try and remove Abrahams.

The ANC also said this case had created unnecessary speculation about the real motive for the charges against Gordhan.