Earlier this month South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) laid criminal charges against the country’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The NPA does have the power under law to charge people with crimes – that’s its job. But do the charges against Gordhan stand up to scrutiny? And did the NPA follow the correct processes in charging him?
Closer examination shows that the NPA is bringing a case it cannot win. Indeed, the weaknesses of the case are so glaring that any vaguely competent criminal lawyer should have been able to spot them. Secondly, it is doing so in a manner which belies its claim to be protecting and enforcing the law.
This case may therefore have less to do with the law than with the pursuit of a political agenda. If so, law has ceased to be the basis of a just and fair society – and instead become an instrument for political gain.
The charge sheet brings a case of fraud against Gordhan, with an alternative charge of theft. Both charges are meant to arise from his approval of early retirement by Ivan Pillay from the South African Revenue Services (SARS), and his rehiring of Pillay as Deputy Commissioner on a fixed-term contract. Related to this is the so-called “penalty” which SARS paid to Pillay’s pension fund, which allowed him to enjoy full pension benefits (as though he had retired at the statutory age). Gordhan was commissioner of SARS at the time these events took place.