Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation began their arguments before the full bench of the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday on why they want President Jacob Zuma to suspend National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams and two other prosecutors with immediate effect.
The organisations want Abrahams and advocates Torie Pretorius and Sibongile Mzinyathi suspended pending an inquiry into their fitness to hold office.
The organisations seek this relief as a result of the manner in which fraud charges were preferred and later withdrawn against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in two media conferences called by Abrahams last month.
But first‚ the organisations had to convince the court whether the matter was urgent and whether Zuma had “failed to act”.
After the application by the two organisations was launched earlier this month‚ Zuma wrote a letter to the three prosecutors and gave them until next November 28 to give him reasons why they should not be suspended.
Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo expressed concern that the judiciary might be seen to enter into the executive’s terrain because Zuma had indicated he was doing something following the organisations’ request that he acts.
David Unterhalter SC‚ for Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation‚ said the president has introduced a process which will mean the three would remain in office before he takes a decision.
“The president stands by and institutes a process‚ instead of suspending‚ that is why we ask for an intervention by the court‚” Unterhalter said.
Unterhalter said the president had not indicated when he will take a decision after receiving representations from Abrahams‚ Pretorius and Mzinyathi.
“These people remain in the office while harm to the institution continues. There is no prompt corrective action to lance the boil. That is why this court’s intervention is required‚” Unterhalter said.
Unterhalter described the matter as a case in which Abrahams‚ Pretorius and Mzinyathi had engaged in misconduct in the way they first instituted and later and withdrew charges against Gordhan and two former South African Revenue Service officials‚ Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay.
Unterhalter said they could not remain in office pending an enquiry necessitated by their misconduct.
Unterhalter said it was evident that sufficient redress could not be attained in due course as it was unclear when the president would take a decision after receiving their representations.
He said the matter was urgent because if the three prosecutors were not suspended‚ they would continue to discharge their functions while the NPA suffered reputational harm.
Unterhalter said Abrahams could not claim his involvement in the case began when he reviewed the charges against Gordhan‚ Magashula and Gordhan.
“He is not a spokesman‚ he is the leader of the NPA.”
Unterhalter said when Abrahams called the press conference on October 11 to announce charges against Gordhan‚ Magashula and Pillay‚ Abrahams stressed that any suggestion that the charges were groundless was nothing further from the truth.
“He is the leader of the NPA‚ he was there to defend them on the merits‚” Unterhalter said‚ adding that it seemed clear he knew the contents of the charges.
– TMG Digital