ANALYSIS: Mokgoro findings give NPA a chance to get rid of a dark stain

2019-04-25 08:16
Nomgcobo Jiba (File, Netwerk24)

Nomgcobo Jiba (File, Netwerk24)

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Like an ugly stain, the controversy around Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and Special Director Lawrence Mrwebi has refused to disappear from the National Prosecuting Authority. Now, with retired Judge Yvonne Mokgoro’s findings into their fitness to hold office, that stain is closer to being removed.

The former Constitutional Court justice has recommended to President Cyril Ramaphosa that he remove Jiba and Mrwebi from office, although that decision is yet to be formally announced. Ramaphosa has sent the report to the pair and has asked them to make representations in response.

Suspended special director of public prosecutions

According to the 140-page report, of which News24 has a copy, the duo have completely and utterly failed to fulfil the requirements of their positions in charge of the prosecuting authority. She has criticised their compromised integrity, lack of leadership, accountability, transparency, dishonesty and a failure to maintain a high standard of professional ethics.

For over a decade now, we in the media have been writing about Jiba's and Mrwebi's alleged transgressions, apparent political protection and the resultant internal ructions within the NPA. They have been the main protagonists in an ugly fight which has ripped the organisation apart and has played out in disciplinary hearings, court cases and news headlines.

Primarily, this centred on the allegations against former Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli. Former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach firmly believed that they were protecting Mdluli from prosecution. There were questions around both their involvement in the Jackie Selebi prosecution and their undermining of the prosecutors in that case, particularly Gerrie Nel. Then there was Jiba's questionable decision to authorise racketeering charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen. A court found that she had lied in that matter.

In a damning move, the General Council of the Bar went to court to have them both struck from the roll of advocates, a process which is still ongoing.

Their actions irrevocably damaged the integrity and credibility of the prosecuting authority and Mokgoro finds as much. She says that Jiba's conduct in the Booysen prosecution "in fact enabled, the independence of the NPA to be compromised". The report goes on to say that: "We find that as a senior member of the NPA, Jiba has displayed irreverence to the courts and indifference to their processes, resulting in adverse comments being made about her."

Despite the overwhelming and numerous court decisions against them, the columns of negative press and the backlash from their own colleagues, the two have somehow managed to survive and cling to power. During the era of Shaun Abrahams, Jiba was still believed by many to be wielding control from behind the scenes. She was seen as inexplicably politically connected to President Jacob Zuma and protected by that relationship.

Now, that ugly, dark era at the NPA appears to finally be drawing to an end. Ramaphosa will have no choice but to fire Jiba and Mrwebi and to finally remove them from an organisation which is desperate to recover. It is exactly what new National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi needs as she attempts to renew and reinvigorate the broken institution. The public needs to see that real action is being taken and change is happening.

At the conclusion of her report, Mokgoro urges the president to never allow this situation to happen again.

“Where officials are mired in controversy and are consistently being taken on review for irrational decision-making, and being found wanting by the Courts, it damages the public confidence. The NPA must instil a strong sense of constitutional values and belief in the rule of law. When these values are internalised and fought for vociferously from within the NPA, only then will the institution enjoy the confidence of the citizenry and become the prosecuting authority that South Africans deserve.”

This dark stain on the NPA is now being cleaned out and hopefully with it, the public confidence in the organisation will return. But it can never entirely be removed. The legacy of this era will linger on for years to come and it must act as a reminder of how close we came to losing it all and just how crucial it is to have a prosecuting authority that acts without fear or favour. As Mokgoro says, we South Africans deserve it.

Read more on:    ramaphosa  |  lawrence mrwebi  |  cyril  |  yvonne mokgoro  |  nomgcobo ­jiba  |  npa  |  state capture
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