In October 2016, then national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams sent the markets into a tailspin when he announced that then finance minister Pravin Gordhan and former senior SA Revenue Service officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay would be charged with fraud. Abrahams was confident about the charges, which he announced after attending a meeting at the ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House. Two weeks later — a day before Gordhan and his co-accused were due to appear in the dock — that confidence had evaporated. There Abrahams was, flanked by deputy NDPP Silas Ramaite and Torie Pretorius, head of the priority crimes litigation unit and the man who had officially made the decision to charge Gordhan. Abrahams announced that the charges were being withdrawn, as it was clear there had been no intention to commit a crime in paying out Pillay’s pension. But the damage was done. Thousands of South Africans had already planned to hit the streets of Pretoria to protest aga...

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