In a shock move that catapulted the rand to a four-week high, NPA boss Shaun Abrahams yesterday announced he was dropping fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Speaking at the National Prosecuting Authority headquarters in Pretoria, Abrahams announced he was withdrawing the charges against Gordhan and former SARS employees, Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula.
The charges related to Gordhan, then SARS commissioner, approving an early retirement package for Pillay, who was later rehired on contract.
Yesterday Abrahams said after “reviewing” the matter, he found no evidence to prove there was criminal intent on the part of the three men.
“In the absence of any other evidence to the contrary, I’m satisfied that Mr Magashula, Mr Pillay and Minister Gordhan did not have the requisite intention to act unlawfully,” said Abrahams.
He then took a swipe at Gordhan, who refused to act on a summons by the Hawks to come and explain himself.
“I’m of the view that this matter could easily had been clarified had there been proper engagement and cooperation between the Hawks and Mr Magashula, Mr Pillay and Minister Gordhan,” he added.
Following Abrahams’ announcement, the rand surged, gaining as much as 1.6 percent against the US dollar.
The economy took a huge knock on October 11 when Abrahams first announced his intention to prosecute Gordhan.
Opposition political parties are now baying for Abrahams’ blood, calling the debacle an international embarrassment.
Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, has called on President Jacob Zuma to suspend Abrahams pending an investigation.
“We maintain that Shaun Abrahams initiated these charges against Pravin Gordhan for narrow political purposes, and now, following a lack of evidence and huge public outcry, Abrahams has been forced to make an embarrassing about-turn, leaving him with egg on his face,” he said.
The ANC also called on Zuma to engage with Abrahams to make sure a repeat of the Gordhan prosecution does not happen again, as it had a “negative impact on the economy and created unnecessary speculation about the real motive.”
However, asked whether he will resign, Abrahams answered with a confident, “certainly not”.
“I certainly do not owe anybody an apology. Am I embarrassed or disappointed? I don’t really want to answer that question.”