Application against Jiba, Mrwebi struck off roll

2015-11-19 13:17
Nomgcobo Jiba (Genevieve Quintal, News24)

Nomgcobo Jiba (Genevieve Quintal, News24)

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Pretoria - An urgent application by rights group Freedom Under Law (FUL) aimed at suspending two senior National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials has been struck off the roll in the High Court in Pretoria.

FUL sought an urgent court order to stop Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and her right-hand man, Special Director of Public Prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi, from remaining in their jobs pending an investigation into their fitness to hold office.

They wanted the interdict to remain in place pending their application to force President Jacob Zuma to suspend Jiba and Mrwebi, institute enquiries against them and to set aside a decision by National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams to drop fraud and perjury charges against Jiba.

The two NPA officials have been widely criticised, including by High Court judges and the Supreme Court of Appeal, for their roles in the controversial decisions to withdraw fraud, corruption and murder charges against suspended crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli, and the attempted prosecution of KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head, Major-General Johan Booysen on racketeering charges.

FUL relied on a series of adverse court judgments and a "damning" report by retired Constitutional Court Judge Zak Yacoob that implicated Jiba and Mrwebi in various improprieties.

Jiba, Mrwebi, Zuma, the NDPP and the Justice Minister Michael Masutha argued that the application was not urgent and that two other applications dealing with the same issues were pending before court.

'Process was abused'

The Democratic Alliance's application to set aside Zuma's decision not to suspend Jiba is set to be heard in the Western Cape High Court in February while an application by the General Bar Council to strike Jiba, Mrwebi and North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi from the roll as practicing advocates will also be heard early in the new year.

Judge Bill Prinsloo ruled that FUL's application for an interim interdict was not urgent. He found that FUL had not complied with the court rules on urgent applications and had not allowed a reasonable time for the respondents to reply.

Most of the respondents - some of whom were overseas - were unable to deal fully with the issues raised in FUL's founding papers.

"In the circumstances, the process was abused and the application, for that reason alone, falls to be struck from the roll," he said.

Prinsloo said the main thrust of FUL's argument for urgency appeared to be that there was a strong case for the proposition that Jiba and Mrwebi were not fit to hold the high offices they currently occupied and their continued performance of their official duties jeopardised dozens of "critical prosecutions and investigations daily - and brings the law into disrepute and makes a mockery of those offices".

Applicant's issues of national importance

"It is not for me to pronounce on the merits of these broad statements, and no details of such alleged transgressions... have been disclosed in the founding or other papers.

"It is not for me, in this urgent court, to pronounce on the merits of the case," he said.

Prinsloo said FUL had already written a letter to Zuma threatening legal action in June this year, Abrahams' decision was taken in August and it appeared the Yacoob report was already in the public domain in mid-August. The urgency of the case was therefore self-created.

He ordered that the parties must pay their own costs because the issues were of a constitutional nature and of national importance.

"The issues which the applicant seeks to ventilate, affect the interest of the public at large, and not only those of the litigants concerned... There was nothing 'frivolous or vexatious' about the conduct of the applicant," he said.

Read more on:    ful  |  npa  |  lawrence mrwebi  |  nomgcobo jiba  |  judiciary

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