The National Prosecuting Authority as contained in the country’s Constitution of 1996 was established by a 1998 Act of Parliament.
The NPA has the mandate for wide investigative powers on behalf of the state and has the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, to carry out any necessary functions incidental to institution of criminal proceedings and to discontinue criminal proceedings.
Headed by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), it was envisaged as a formidable legal umbrella for the people-driven post-apartheid South Africa.
The first serious tear in this umbrella occurred when in 2007 Thabo Mbeki suspended the then NDPP Vusi Pikoli, who was investigating the then police commissioner Jackie Selebi, later found to be involved in a wide corruption network.
A committee under former speaker Frene Ginwala recommended Pikoli’s reinstatement but he was removed in 2008 by then interim president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Acting NDPP Mokhotedi Mpshe engineered the spy tapes to get Jacob Zuma off the hook on 783 charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, “enabling” him to succeed the fired Mbeki.
In 2009 the highly effective independent special operations unit, the Scorpions, was substituted by the Hawks which was placed in the police directorate, thereby losing its vital independence.
In quick succession the post of NDPP was held by Menzi Simelane (currently under investigation by the Bar Council) and Nomgcobo Jiba (acting NDPP) recently struck off the roll of advocates along with Lawrence Mrwebi.
Then followed Mxolisi Nxasana, who was investigated for fitness to hold office and resigned when bought off with R17-million.
Shaun Abrahams, the present incumbent was appointed in June 2015, the latest in this illustrious succession carrying the by now completely stripped ribs of the umbrella.
He set about spuriously charging the finance minister for misdemeanours supposedly committed in his term as SARS commissioner.
This charge was withdrawn last week. He furthermore seriously burnt his fingers along with Tom Moyane, the present commissioner, in a hostage drama involving the Hawks.
Glynnis Breytenbach, a casualty of the same mess and now a DA MP, was the first to call on Abrahams to resign, a call that swelled to an overwhelming chorus, leaving Shaun in ignominy, probably with a shattered legal future.
A glance at the man’s career suggests a highly accomplished lawyer, commended by senior legal personalities and with considerable experience as a state advocate. What came over this man to lay such easily debunked charges?
A man of his intelligence and legal savvy undoubtedly has a healthy sense of survival, making him cast around for ways of saving his career.
This might just lead him to the following, very obvious, realisation: “I am still in the post of NDPP, an immensely powerful position that I have foolishly placed at the disposal of a president who has shamelessly exploited us all; who has just slept through part of his minister of finance’s presentation of the essential steps to save the country from utter ruin.
This in front of the entire parliamentary caucus of his own party of which increasing numbers of senior members and respected elders finally speak out against him. A man who is clearly losing his grip on power.
“I, however, have the power to reinstate the blocked 783 charges against him even as I dropped charges against Gordhan.
I could do so with other blocked charges.
The chief justice found that the president violated the country’s constitution and got others to do likewise.
Surely, this could be developed into an appropriate charge? Rather than go down ignominiously, I could emerge from this as a key figure in ridding the country of a once so apparently powerful but corrupt head of state.”