Pravin’s trumped-up charges – NPA could be forced into humiliating recant

SA Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has drawn a firm line in the sand. He is refusing to engage on trumped-up charges levelled by the President Jacob Zuma-friendly National Prosecuting Authority. Gordhan wants nothing less than the charges to be dismissed. But NPA chief Shaun Abrahams has painted himself into a corner. Failure to drop the charges will see Gordhan meeting his adversary on their 2 November court date, supported by tens if not hundreds of thousands of concerned South Africans taking to the streets of Pretoria. In such a highly charged environment the outcome of such mass action is rarely pleasant for unpopular regimes, as Arab Spring and the Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu saga illustrated. The Wikileaks “Clinton” emails released on the 2016 New Year’s Eve detailed how a mass uprising is one of the scenarios Zuma fears most. Now that Abrahams’s bluff has been called, his only rational option now is to recant, drop the charges and resign. But South African politics is rarely rational nowadays. The next two weeks promise to be rather interesting. – Alec Hogg   

By Paul Vecchiatto and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) — South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan rejected an offer from the nation’s prosecutions chief to request a review of fraud charges that were filed against him and instead said the case should be dropped.

“Our client does not intend to make representations to you,” Tebogo Malatji, Gordhan’s lawyer, said in a letter to Shaun Abrahams, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, on Tuesday. “We invite you to withdraw the charges against our client.”

Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey
Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey

Abrahams announced on Oct. 11 that Gordhan will be charged with fraud relating to the early retirement of a former colleague at the national tax agency that resulted in 1.1 million rand ($78,000) of allegedly wasteful expenditure. The finance minister has been summoned to appear in the High Court on Nov. 2. The announcement knocked the nation’s bonds and rand, which plunged more than 4 percent against the dollar that day, and deepened a political crisis that has pitted the Treasury against the presidency.

Gordhan, 67, has been a key driver of a campaign to maintain South Africa’s investment-grade credit rating, which is up for review over the next two months. He has said the charges against him are frivolous and politically motivated and he’ll only vacate his post if President Jacob Zuma fires him. He’s received the backing of senior officials, including Cyril Ramaphosa, a leading contender to succeed Zuma, who on Sunday said the finance minister had his moral and political support.

Gordhan said in an Oct. 14 statement that any request to the prosecutor to review the charges would be pointless, and that he had no confidence in Abrahams’s ability or willingness to afford him a fair hearing. Abrahams wrote to Gordhan three days later and invited him to reconsider after the co-accused in the case, former South African Revenue Service Commissioner Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay, the ex-deputy commissioner, made submissions to the prosecutor.

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