Shaun Abrahams. Picture: ALON SKUY
Shaun Abrahams. Picture: ALON SKUY

The High Court in Pretoria has thrown out a case trying to force the suspension of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams saying the case was not urgent.

Calls for Abrahams to resign or be suspended by President Jacob Zuma came in thick and fast after he announced on October 11 that the NPA had charged Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for fraud, only to withdraw the charges a few weeks later.

Legal lobby groups Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation went to court urgently, asking it to set aside President Jacob Zuma'’ "failure" to suspend and initiate inquiries into whether Abrahams was fit for his posts.

The full bench of the high court in Pretoria struck the application off the roll with costs. The judges said the rush to court was "ill-advised and unreasonable".

Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said the relief sought had the effect of the court entering executive terrain and could violate the separation of powers doctrine.

Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba and Judge Elizabeth Kubushi concurred.

In the judgment‚ Mlambo also said the courts should guard against creating precedents based on insufficient grounds where ordinary citizens were encouraged to use the courts to dictate to the executive how to do its job.

The lobby groups launched the urgent application with the court on November 9 to secure an order declaring the President Jacob Zuma had failed in not provisionally suspending Abrahams and two other prosecutors, nor setting up enquiries into Abrahams’s fitness for office

They also sought an order directing the president to institute enquiries into the fitness of Abrahams‚ head of Priority Crimes Litigation Unit Torie Pretorius SC and Director of Public Prosecutions in North Gauteng Sibongile Mzinyathi to hold office.

Zuma had written letters to the prosecutors asking them to give him answers on or before November 28 on why they should not be suspended.

Zuma had also requested the organisations on November 7 to give him time to respond to their requests to investigate. The organisations ignored the request and instead went to court.

The court said the organisations launched the court application within two days of receiving a request from Zuma that he needed more timer.

"The president’s request for more time under the circumstances was not unreasonable. This presents clear evidence that the president was considering the matter.

"Our view is that based on the president’s response‚ it was ill-advised of the applicants to rush and launch this application‚ brushing aside the request for more time from the president‚" Mlambo said.

TMG Digital, with Franny Rabkin

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