IN Monday’s Business Day cartoon, Shaun Abrahams, the head of the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA), is depicted waiting on a scooter at an intersection. He’s sitting there trying to make up his mind about whether to proceed straight, turn right, or turn left.
Each direction represents, respectively, a decision to appeal the Pretoria High Court’s judgment – and thus help President Jacob Zuma buy more time before the inevitable happens – implement the court’s judgment by reinstating the 783 criminal charges against the President, or simply remain quiet for as long as he can, standing right there at the intersection until he gets kicked in the butt, probably through a Constitutional Court judgment, to make a move.
He knows, and we all know, that he cannot stand there forever. The clock is ticking. We’re watching him, the world is watching him and, hopefully more compelling, his own conscience is watching him.
No doubt, his deputy, the notorious Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, is also watching him; probably breathing heavily over his shoulder while waiting to see which way Abrahams will jump. If anyone, Jiba would be the remaining eye inside the NPA for those who hope Abrahams will proceed straight through the intersection.
Going by her public record thus far, it seems safe to withhold any trust that Jiba is in the NPA to uphold the rule of law and to protect our democracy. Many of her decisions thus far have demonstrated consistency with behavior that is inimical to the robustness of the NPA.
She is no Advocate Thuli Madonsela; she is no Advocate Vusi Pikoli and she is definitely no aspirant for the positions currently held by Constitutional Court Judge President Mogoeng Mogoeng, his Deputy Dikgang Moseneke, and their esteemed colleagues on the bench. It is therefore worrisome that Abrahams seems to have embraced the Jiba-led faction in the NPA from the moment he got roped into the organisation. The silence emanating from the NPA is deafening.
The institutions that stand
Despite everything that has gone wrong over the past number of years, particularly as a result of the many legal faux-pas committed by President Zuma and his many parliamentary and extra-parliamentary cronies, there have been moments of hope that all could still be right in the end.
First, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s management of her office and delivery on her mandate have given us ample reasons to keep believing that our collective dream might not be deferred after all. Like the true David described by the country’s Chief Justice, a few weeks ago, our Public Protector has dared look the Goliath that is our erstwhile lead liberator in the eye and tell him where to get off.
She was subsequently called names, deprived of resources to continue her work of protecting us against Goliath, and accused of all sorts of things, including being a spy working with foreign forces against the interests of the republic. But she has weathered the storm and kept walking; often seemingly lonely, yet fearless, because she believed in the correctness of her mission. In the end, she was vindicated for the whole world to see.
Secondly, the Constitutional Court responded to our collective SOS when its time came; it stood-up and looked the same Goliath in the eye and told him in no ambiguous language, “this far and no more”, reminding him that we’re a constitutional democracy underpinned by carefully established independent institutions above which none of us sit.
This happened despite what some described as generalised fear that having been appointed by a president in which there is very little public confidence, Judge President Mogoeng Mogoeng would simply remember which side of his bread is buttered and side with Goliath in this battle to safeguard our democracy.
Room for the NPA
There is still room for the NPA to join other Chapter 9 Institutions and a growing number of concerned South Africans who are determined to protect our country from further institutional collapse. The cancer might already have spread in our body politics, but Abrahams has an opportunity to add his name to the list of patriots who will remember where we come from, as a nation and – mindful of the road we have travelled – choose to respond to the historic call to place country ahead of any personal and political ambitions.
As it is, the image of the NPA needs a redeemer.
Will Abrahams be such a redeemer, or will he choose to confirm our collective fears by feeding with the hyenas?