Gordhan ‘treated like crook’

Ex Concourt judge joins critics of NPA decision to charge finance minister

Retired Constitutional Court Judge Johan Kriegler has slammed what he calls a horrific decision to treat Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as a common criminal.

Freedom Under Law, which Kriegler chairs, and the Helen Suzman Foundation jointly lodged an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court yesterday to force the National Prosecuting Authority to reverse its decision to charge Gordhan.

Kriegler said hauling the finance minister before the courts like a common criminal would damage South Africa’s image and economy.

“It is our chief accounting officer, for heaven’s sake,” he said.

“The Hawks and the NPA say he is guilty of fraud. It’s horrific.

“Imagine a minister standing in the dock like a common criminal. It is scary.”

The organisations said in a joint statement they had approached the court after national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams failed to furnish them with more information on the charges or withdraw them voluntarily.

They said the charges revealed “dizzying incompetence” at the NPA and the Hawks.

“At worst, they confirm our suspicions – that the criminal justice system is being undermined to serve particular political interests.”

Abrahams announced on October 11 that Gordhan‚ together with two former South African Revenue Service officials‚ had been charged with fraud.

They are due to appear in court on November 2.

Helen Suzman Foundation spokesman Piet Olivier said their attorneys had found Gordhan’s charges baseless.

“This shows that the NPA is either incompetent or has brought the charges against Gordhan for ulterior motives,” he said.

“These charges are an indication that there is political interference.”

The DA says it will demand that National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete reconsider her decision to deny the party’s request for a debate on politicisation of the NPA.

“Reports today which detail how ... Abrahams met with President Jacob Zuma at Luthuli House a day before initiating flimsy fraud and theft charges against . . . Gordhan show just why the speaker’s decision cannot go unchallenged,” DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said yesterday.

“Indeed, these reports reinforce our contention that the NPA has been captured by Zuma Inc.”

Meanwhile, the Save South Africa campaign is to stage a “People’s Assembly Against State Capture” in Pretoria on November 2 to protest against what it calls attempts to loot the country’s resources.

It said protests would be taking place outside the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court where Gordhan was due to appear with Oupa Magashule and Ivan Pillay “for charges which appear at best spurious or at worst politically motivated”.

The People’s Assembly‚ which will start at 8am, includes marches and pickets outside court.

In addition‚ faith-based groups are planning vigils the night before.

The Save South Africa campaign is encouraging people to show their support on the day by wearing doeks‚ bandanas‚ armbands or T-shirts with the South African flag.

“We must send a strong message that when our sovereignty is threatened we are able to transcend our differences in defence of the motherland,” it said.

“Attacks on the national Treasury are nothing less than an unbridled attempt at further state capture‚ and designed to get unfettered access to state resources.”

ý Trillian Capital Partners denied yesterday that the Gupta family had any shareholding or other interest whatsoever in Trillian Holdings.

The company was responding to a story in the Sunday Times which stated that the “Gupta-linked company” knew of the axing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene two months before it happened and scored millions from state-owned companies for work it never did.

The newspaper said a whistleblower’s affidavit to former public protector Thuli Madonsela laid bare how Trillian chief executive Eric Wood had briefed some of its top executives about Nene’s axing during a meeting at its Melrose Arch offices in October last year.

It said the whistleblower had fled the country after revealing a plan for Trillian to secure a number of lucrative contracts from the Treasury‚ including the nuclear deal.

In a statement, Trillian charged that the allegations were “factually incorrect‚ grossly misleading and indeed sensationalist”.

It referred to the whistleblower as a disgruntled former employee who had “committed a number of criminal offences”. – Additional reporting by TMG Digital