08/12/2017 13:17 SAST | Updated 08/12/2017 13:27 SAST

What Now For Shaun Abrahams?

It is highly likely that the NPA will appeal the High Court's ruling that Shaun Abrahams must vacate his office.

Advocate Shaun Abrahams.
Jaco Marais/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Advocate Shaun Abrahams.

It is likely that the National Prosecuting Authority and President Jacob Zuma's legal team will appeal the Pretoria High Court's judgment ordering National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams to vacate his post.

If an appeal is made, according to the law, Judge-President Dunstan Mlambo's ruling will effectively be suspended until the appeal is heard and a ruling is made. This may buy Abrahams some extra time in office.

Speaking to HuffPost after Friday's landmark court decision, legal expert James Grant said the NPA may opt to use the "most badly drafted section in legal history" to worm their way out of the Mlambo's ruling –– for now.

"I expect the NPA will appeal the ruling. But Mlambo's judgments are generally extremely well considered and solid. If one considers the circumstances under which the case was brought to court, it is inevitable that Mlambo would have arrived at this decision. I can't imaging how another decision would have came about," Grant said.

If they [the NPA and Zuma] do appeal, Mlambo's judgment will be suspended. The moment they lodge the appeal, the effect of the order is suspended.

He explained that Section 18 of the Superior Courts Act provides for the suspension of an order once an appeal is noted; but it also provides that the party in whose favour the ruling was given may argue that there are exceptional circumstances that require that the order be implemented immediately despite the noting of an appeal.

"The catch is [that] this section is the most badly drafted section in legal history... If the court is persuaded that there are exceptional circumstances, it may order that its ruling be enforced immediately, but that order is then immediately suspended... It doesn't make complete sense," Grant said.

He explained the bottom line: "If the NPA appeals, the order that Abrahams must vacate his office will be suspended, and nobody can do anything about it until the appeal is decided."

Grant said the High Court's ruling was a "massive leap forward for principle" which could indicate the "beginning of the end" for Zuma.

On Friday, the court ruled that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa must appoint a new NDPP within 60 days, giving Ramaphosa the responsibility because Zuma was found to be "conflicted". It also ordered that Abrahams vacate his post and that his predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, pay back the R17-million he received in a "golden handshake" from the president.

Lawson Naidoo, from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), said they are "pleased" with the judgment. Casac was one of the applicants in the matter, along with Freedom Under Law (FUL) and Corruption Watch.

"It was precisely the relief sought by Casac. We were the applicants to say that in the event of Nxasana's termination being declared unlawful, that the deputy president appoint the new NDPP. We are grateful to the court, because it turned around this judgment so speedily. Appeals have become the norm and routine, so we expect there will be one," he said.

But the judgment is well reasoned. What it demonstrates is the folly of the Zuma administration. Once again, the president has been found to have acted irrationally.

FUL's Johann Kriegler said he is looking forward to what Abrahams will do next.

"It is being show that the courts speak truth to power. The general public can look at this as a victory for all South Africans," he said.