UPDATE: Nomgcobo Jiba has said that she will appeal the decision of the North Gauteng High Court.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi have been struck off the roll of advocates, thanks to an application by the General Council of the Bar (GCB). In mid-2015 the council brought its application to the North Gauteng High Court, with another senior NPA official, Sibongile Mzinyathi, as the third respondent. The court reserved its judgment in June.
Judge Francis Legodi this morning ruled in favour of GCB against Jiba and Mrwebi, but found against them on Mzinyathi. “The application against Jiba and Mrwebi with regard to their handling of Mdluli’s case is hereby granted … The names of Ms Nomgcobo Jiba and Mr Lawrence Sithembiso Mrwebi are hereby struck off the roll.”
Richard Mdluli is the former head of police crime intelligence. He and other officers of the unit are accused of benefiting from a secret fund under their management, using it to buy cars, properties, and for overseas trips.
Jiba is currently the deputy national director of the NPA, while Mrwebi is the head of the authority’s specialised crime intelligence unit. Mzinyathi is its North Gauteng director. As advocates, their names are listed on the court roll, entitling them to practise as such and to appear before the courts of South Africa.
In the cases of Mrwebi and Jiba, 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. This dubious conduct revolved around their handling of three high-profile criminal cases, including that of Mdluli.
“I cannot believe that two officers of the court (advocates) who hold such high positions in the prosecuting authority will stoop so low for the protection and defence of one individual [Mdluli] who had been implicated in serious offences,” wrote Legodi. “By their conduct, they did not only bring the prosecuting authority and the legal profession into disrepute … it is this kind of behaviour that diminishes the image of our country and its institutions which are meant to be impartial, independent and transparent in the exercise of their legislative public powers.”
The judgment now casts doubt on their fitness to occupy their current positions. Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos tweeted that “Jiba no longer qualifies to be the deputy national director of NPA after today’s judgment.”
The two could lose their jobs at the NPA‚ as the possession of legal qualifications is one of the requirements.
Legodi also ordered them to pay the costs of the application‚ including the costs of two counsel.
Not acting in the country’s interests?
Between them, Jiba and Mrwebi have been involved in numerous high-profile controversies in the criminal justice system. Mrwebi testified in the 2010 trial of Jackie Selebi, defending the late former police commissioner and stating that Selebi was a victim of the Scorpions anti-corruption unit. Selebi was nonetheless found guilty of corruption.
In 2008 the pair were suspended after accusations that they were part of a conspiracy to have former Gauteng Scorpions head Gerrie Nel arrested before he could lay corruption charges against Selebi.
Mrwebi was also the person who signed off on the withdrawal of the charges against Mdluli and his co-accused Heine Barnard. Corruption Watch, with the Social Justice Coalition, had supported Freedom Under Law in an application brought to the North Gauteng to challenge the withdrawal of the various criminal and disciplinary charges against Mdluli, including the withdrawal of corruption charges. The two co-applicants later withdrew their applications to prevent delay in the court.
In April 2012 Jiba, then acting NPA head, formally suspended Glynnis Breytenbach, who had headed up the Mdluli fraud and corruption case.
She then engineered racketeering charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen and 27 members of the Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit. Booysen successfully had the case withdrawn in 2014 after the court found that Jiba, still acting NPA head, unlawfully pressed the charges. She conceded in court in 2014 that there was no evidence in the 23 dockets and 290 statements the NPA had collected, to support the racketeering charges.
Jiba was then charged with fraud and perjury for originally bringing the charges against Booysen, but in August 2015 newly appointed NPA head Shaun Abrahams announced that the case would be dropped. In February 2016 it was announced that the NPA would again take up the case against Booysen.
In June 2015 Mrwebi insinuated, in an e-mail to Corruption Watch, that he would be interested in investigating our sources of funding. He added that our executive director David Lewis misled the public after stating in an interview with Eyewitness News that Jiba should be fired or resign. About our funding, he expressed interest in knowing “who provides those resources, may be something we may be interested in at some stage”.