Legal experts and the markets here have welcomed the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to withdraw fraud charges against South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and two former South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay.

News of the charges earlier in October rattled the financial markets but after the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, announced Monday the decision to withdraw the charges, the South African Rand gained as much as 1.6 per cent against the US dollar.

“From a legal side at least, it was unanimous in the decision and in their approach to say how in the world is the NPA going to prove that Gordhan and the others had the necessary intention to commit these charges?, says legal expert Dr Llewellyn Curlewis,

“They do have the discretion to prosecute or not but under these circumstances and taking into account that the Minister and the others are high profile individuals and members of society, one would have expected them to at least have listened and given him, them, proper opportunity to explain themselves … and ultimately when that happened, this is the result.”

Curlewis added that that the public outcry against the decision to charge Gordhan played a pivotal role in the NPA’s decision. “I find it off that no less than two weeks ago he (Abrahams) said exactly the opposite from what his determination was today and I get the feeling that the amount of pressure from the public and other institutions might have had more of an impact than one would have expected initially,” he said.

“In practical terms, it will mean that any possible prosecution in future will also be scrutinized with regard to whatever the public outcry is, on a specific matter, regardless of whether they looked at legal principles applicable.”


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