President Jacob Zuma was aware of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) plan to formally charge Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
This emerged as Hawks and NPA heads Berning Ntlemeza and Shaun Abrahams faced tough questions in parliament yesterday over the decision to charge Gordhan and two former SA Revenue Service executives for fraud.
Gordhan has been summonsed to appear in court on November 2 along with Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula for fraud in connection with more than R1.1-million paid to Pillay in 2010 as part of an early retirement package.
The minister has questioned the timing of the charges and the process used by the NPA.
He said in a statement from his lawyers that he had expected Abrahams would interact with him and afford him an opportunity to make written submissions before making a decision.
“It is surprising that we have only received a letter dated October 4 2016, but only sent to our office this [Tuesday] morning, advising that minister Gordhan is an accused person,” Gordhan’s lawyers said.
Yesterday, Ntlemeza and Abrahams were meant to present their department’s financial reports to parliamentary committees on police and justice, but the decision to charge and summons Gordhan dominated discussions.
Ntlemeza denied being under political pressure, maintaining that the Hawks remained independent.
Abrahams said he was not the one who had decided to charge Gordhan. That decision had been taken on the recommendation of prosecutors and by the special director in charge of the priority crimes litigation unit in consultation with the director of public prosecutions of North Gauteng.
Abrahams also left the door open for Gordhan to put in a formal request for the decision to prosecute to be reviewed as the law allowed for this.
In another development last night, Justice Department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed that Justice Minister Michael Masutha had informed Zuma of the prosecutions, but would not go into detail.
Zuma has urged the parties involved in the summonsing of Gordhan to conduct the matter with the necessary dignity and respect.
He has also reaffirmed his support for Gordhan.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Appeal said yesterday it wanted Zuma’s legal team to bring his argument for leave to appeal the reinstatement of 783 corruption charges by way of oral presentation.
The court said that “the parties must be prepared‚ if called upon to do so‚ to address the court on the merits”.
The court gave Zuma a month to file additional copies of papers for leave to appeal.
A full bench of the Pretoria High Court in April reviewed and set aside the 2009 decision by acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe to discontinue Zuma’s prosecution.
This followed a seven-year-long legal battle by the DA.
The ruling effectively reinstated 783 charges of fraud‚ corruption and racketeering against Zuma relating to payments he had allegedly received from his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik. – Additional reporting by TMG Digital