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Senior National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi have been suspended, and President Cyril Ramaphosa will set up an inquiry into their fitness to hold office, according to a statement released on Thursday by the Presidency.

Jiba is a national deputy director of public prosecutions, and Mrwebi is a special director of public prosecutions.

The North Gauteng High Court ordered in September 2016 that Jiba and Mrwebi must be struck off the roll of advocates, following a successful application by the General Council of the Bar, with another senior NPA official, Sibongile Mzinyathi, as the third respondent.

The pair appealed their disbarment, which was overturned in July 2018 by the Supreme Court of Appeal. It was their decision to drop charges against former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli – who faced a number of charges that include defrauding a secret slush fund – that set the process in motion. The bar council wanted them struck off on the basis that they engaged in conduct rendering them no longer “fit and proper” to practise as advocates.

Ramaphosa’s decision came after Mrwebi and Jiba had been given the opportunity to make submissions as to why they should not be suspended, pending the enquiry into their suitability for office. Jiba and Mrwebi have been suspended on full pay.

The inquiry – an internal process rather than a judicial commission of inquiry – will be established in terms of Section 12(6) of the NPA Act, which applies directly to Adv. Jiba, while Section 14(3) applies to Mrwebi. This legislation sets out the conditions under which the president may provisionally suspend the national director or a deputy national director from his or her office, pending an enquiry.

Former Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro will lead the inquiry, with assistance from Kgomotso Moroka SC and Attorney Thenjiwe Vilakazi. The evidence leading team – which will be led by Nazreen Bawa SC – will develop the terms of reference for the enquiries.

In his letters to Jiba and Mrwebi, Ramaphosa noted that he had taken into account the serious nature of the allegations regarding their lack of fitness to be in so high an office. The work of the criminal justice system is central to the critical and pressing matter of all prosecutions, especially prosecution of corruption cases and safeguard of the public purse, Ramaphosa said.

“You hold a senior position with influence over a large swathe of the NPA. It is the interest of the NPA’s image as a whole that I consider here, and of the integrity of an enquiry that must result in the clearest and most convincing conclusions about the integrity, and sound leadership of the NPA.”