Johannesburg – National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams ordered an investigation into advocate Gerrie Nel and other senior prosecutors just three days before Nel resigned.
Abrahams asked a senior prosecutor in KwaZulu-Natal to provide him with a progress report relating to a complaint lodged against Nel and three senior advocates, for bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.
News24 has learnt that Nel was part of a complaint a Laudium businessman laid against him and the prosecutors in Pretoria.
Nel resigned on Monday to join lobby group AfriForum as head of its private prosecutions unit.
The complaint, which was registered on December 20 last year, relates to an allegation of tampering with evidence.
Speculation is rife among the legal fraternity that Nel was under some sort of pressure in the National Prosecuting Authority before he left, just five years before retirement, after a 36-year career. Insiders believe this complaint may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Days before Nel’s resignation, Abrahams responded to the complainant in a letter News24 has seen, indicating he was taking the allegations seriously.
The letter titled “Bringing the administration of justice into disrepute by virtue of the conduct of senior members of the National Prosecuting Service” was signed on January 27.
Abrahams allocated the complaint to the director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, advocate Moipone Noko and asked for a progress report by February 24.
“I reiterate the seriousness of the allegations and remain committed to resolve this matter soonest,” Abrahams wrote.
While the letter by Abrahams does not mention who in the NPA is being looked into, the original complaint specifically names Nel and three senior NPA members in the Pretoria area.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said they would be guided by Noko once her investigation had been completed.
News24 learnt that the complainant in the matter had approached the Hawks with the case.
Gauteng Hawks head General Prince Mokotedi confirmed this, but said a case against Nel had not been registered yet because they were waiting for the complainants to depose statements.
“We were approached this past weekend and we were arranging to meet the complainants with their lawyers this coming Friday. I have directed a senior investigator to look into that matter should the complainants and their lawyers revert to us,” Mokotedi said.
When Nel was asked if he was aware of the complaint against him and if this had anything to do with his resignation, he replied “not at all”. He did not comment further.
Dispute with prominent family
The complainant is a businessman who has had four cases opened against him. All of them stem from a dispute he has had with a prominent family. The family, also from Laudium, he alleges, have had numerous criminal cases against them dropped and have “untoward personal relationships” with members of the police and NPA.
The dispute led to a shooting at a supermarket in Laudium in 2015. According to the businessman, five men vandalised his car. He heard what was happening and ran out the shop. When the men surrounded him he pulled out a firearm and shot two of the men, injuring them. His version is that the men were armed and he fired shots to defend himself. Criminal cases were opened on both sides after the incident.
He said that from the start, the normal course of justice appeared to have been interfered with. The senior prosecutor in the case allegedly admitted to having a romantic relationship with a relative of one of the men involved in the supermarket shooting.
He complained and the prosecutor withdrew from the cases. Nel and a colleague then took over. The businessman asked that the NPA look into how the cases were reassigned as he believed the two prosecutors took over as a favour to their colleague.
He said the prosecutors appeared to have a familiar attitude with the Laudium family and he alleges that Nel was seen taking selfies with them in court.
At the heart of the complaint is CCTV footage of the shooting. The complainant said a shorter, edited version of the footage was submitted to the court which supported the five men’s version of events.
The defence told the prosecutors they had longer footage, which showed that the video submitted to court had been edited.
The prosecutors did not bring this to the magistrate’s attention, said the businessman. The footage was allegedly given to a private company and not the state forensic laboratory to analyse, which is not normal procedure.
The businessman said this was tantamount to tampering with evidence and hence his complaint of defeating the ends of justice.
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