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The Supreme Court of Appeal has overturned the 2016 North Gauteng High Court ruling that struck National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) deputy head Nomgcobo Jiba and special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi, off the roll of advocates. The application to have them removed from the roll had been brought forward by the General Council of the Bar (GCB) a year earlier, with another senior NPA official, Sibongile Mzinyathi, as the third respondent.

It was the pair’s 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.

“The application for the striking off the roll for Miss Jiba and Mr Mrwebi is dismissed with no order as to costs,” said Judge Connie Mocumie, reading the judgment. “As regards Jiba, the evidence presented by the GCB juxtaposed with the explanation proffered by her failed to establish the alleged offending conduct on a preponderance of probabilities. On that ground the appeal must succeed.”

However, as regards Mrwebi, Mocumie continued, “he is suspended as an advocate for a period of six months from the date of this order, (15 September 2016). I hand down the judgment.”

Mocumie was not impressed by Jiba and Mrwebi’s work ethics, however. “… I am not persuaded that the court a quo erred in finding that Ms Jiba was not a fit and proper person to practice as an advocate. In fact the reasons to do so are more extensive than those relied on by the court a quo. There is therefore not only no reason to interfere with the exercise of the discretion of the court a quo in respect of the appropriate sanction, but in my view it was correct in ordering Ms Jiba’s name to be removed from the roll.”

Of Mrwebi, the judge said: “Not only has Mr Mrwebi shown himself to be seriously lacking in integrity, but has failed in these proceedings to have taken the court into his confidence and fully explained his actions. All of this hallmarks him as a person unfit to practice as an advocate, particularly in the light of the authorities already referred to when dealing with Mr Jiba. I have no hesitation in endorsing the order of the court a quo that Mr Mrwebi should be struck from the roll of advocates.”

The cross appeal of the GCB in the case of Mzinyathi was upheld with costs.

The many lives of Jiba

In December, the High Court in Pretoria set aside a decision by NPA head Shaun Abrahams to withdraw charges against Jiba. She had been charged with perjury and fraud for the process she followed in charging former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen with racketeering.

Mdluli is the former head of police crime intelligence. He and other officers of the unit were accused of benefiting from a secret fund under their management, using it to buy cars, properties, and for overseas trips.

Former police minister Fikile Mbalula announced early this year that Mdluli had been relieved of all his duties. He was on paid leave for six years‚ earning his full salary and bonuses.