Business & Finance

JOHANNESBURG– The Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest court, has ruled that Shaun Abrahams’s appointment as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) was constitutionally invalid and has subsequently dismissed with costs the appeal by him and by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) an order setting aside his appointment.

Justice Mbuyiseni Madlanga on Monday said the appointment of Abrahams was invalid because the removal of his predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, was also constitutionally invalid because of the fact that former President Jacob Zuma bought him out of office and an abuse of power.

The removal of Nxasana by Zuma was an abuse of power. Advocate Shaun Abrahams is a beneficiary of an abuse of power. It does not matter whether he was part of the abuse of power, said Justice Madlanga when delivering his judgment here Monday.

Last year, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria declared that Zuma acted unconstitutionally in terminating former NPA director Nxasana and replacing him with Abrahams.

The application was brought to the highest court in the land by civil society organizations which challenged Nxasana’s 17 million Rand (about 1.18 million US dollars) payout, which he has now been ordered to pay back as it was invalid.

The organizations argued that Abrahams’s appointment was a product of Zuma’s unlawful abuse of power from which he sought to personally benefit by minimising his own risk of prosecution.

Nxasana was appointed to the position in October 2013 but his fitness to hold office came under question a year later after a breakdown in the relationship with Zuma.

Zuma instituted a commission of inquiry into his fitness to hold the office, which led to a legal battle. The legal battle ended with the 17 million Rand settlement, while making way for the appointment of Abrahams.

Judge Madlanga questioned why Zuma failed to pursue an inquiry into Nxasana but instead abandoned it to pay him a huge amount to leave his post.

This inference is inescapable, Madlanga said, adding that the independence of the NPA was also undermined by the former President. Former President Jacob Zuma was hell-bent on removing Nxasana at all costs.

The judge further stressed that the return of Nxasana to the office would prolong the instability at the NPA. Instead, Madlanga ordered Nxasana to pay back a sum of more than 10 million Rand.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been ordered appoint a new National Director of Public Prosecution within 90 days. “For years there has been instability in the appointment of the NDPP. The sooner it is brought an end, the better, Madlanga said.