South African justice minister Michael Masutha said he has “full confidence” in chief prosecutor Shaun Abrahams and he had supported the 2016 decision to bring charges against then-finance minister Pravin Gordhan — a move that knocked the rand but was reversed two weeks later.
Abrahams had been accused by opposition parties and rights groups of delaying decisions on or refusing to prosecute allies of former President Jacob Zuma accused of looting state funds. Last year the High Court ruled that his appointment was invalid because the removal off his predecessor was unlawful. The ruling party forced Zuma to resign in February and replaced him with Cyril Ramaphosa, who fired several cabinet ministers who were seen as being close to Zuma but retained Masutha in his post.
“I have full confidence in Shaun Abrahams,” Masutha said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office on Monday. “When he was appointed, he had a good 17 years. He was heading the priority crimes unit.”
Abrahams accused Gordhan of illegally authorising a retirement package for a tax agency official. Gordhan, who now oversees state companies, denied any wrongdoing, and the charges were dropped after it was found that the South African Revenue Service (Sars) approved the pension.
“Having studied that report, I was convinced as a lawyer that there was a case to be answered,” Masutha said, referring to the investigation into Gordhan.
Masutha said Zuma had never asked him to do “anything untoward” and he’d hadn’t found himself in a position where he had to compromise himself or his department. Zuma told him that he appointed Abrahams because he was already working for the National Prosecuting Authority and had the required skills and experience, Masutha said.