ANALYSIS: The Mokgoro report is all about Jacob Zuma

2019-04-28 09:00
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: AFP)

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: AFP)

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Former president Jacob Zuma is named just 24 times in the Mokgoro inquiry report, which this week recommended the removal from office of prosecutions bosses Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi. Every reference to Zuma except one is a reference to cases concerning him, but the former president's conduct in relation to the pair's reign of terror at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is not directly addressed.

A closer analysis of each of the instances of poor judgement on the part of Jiba and Mrwebi reveals that, really, Zuma is at the very centre of the Mokgoro report, despite his absence from its pages.

President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended Jiba and Mrwebi last year pending the outcome of the inquiry headed by retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro. On Friday afternoon Ramaphosa's office confirmed that Jiba and Mrwebi were fired on Thursday night. Jiba said on Friday that she would be taking the report on review, while Mrwebi told News24 that he will await the outcome of the parliamentary process that will now take place. The National Assembly must now either ratify Ramaphosa's decision or overturn it. 

The Mokgoro report leaves little doubt that had Zuma acted in accordance with his constitutional duties, Jiba and Mrwebi would have been suspended a long time ago. It excavates in excruciating detail Jiba and Mrwebi's incompetence, dishonesty and disregard for the law, for the better part of a decade.

Jiba, former acting national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), and Mrwebi, former head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit, were found to have been dishonest and to have acted in a manner not befitting persons holding such high offices. Disturbingly, with a number of highly sensitive political corruption cases on their desks, they were found to have had a less than adequate understanding of the law.

The National Prosecuting Act says that the only man who could have suspended them was Jacob Zuma.

Mokgoro flirts with the issue at times, but does not make any conclusions about why Zuma did nothing.

It has long been rumoured and reported that Zuma protected Jiba and Mrwebi. From the very beginning of the Spy Tapes saga, the Mokgoro report reveals that there were questions about Jiba's impartiality. This was because the former president granted Jiba's husband a presidential pardon after he had been incarcerated for theft. Three months later Zuma appointed Jiba as acting NDPP.

The report reveals that Zuma granted the presidential pardon against legal advice at the time. Jiba's role in the "spy tapes" was to represent the NPA, which had a copy of the Spy Tapes, which the DA sought access to. This was part of a broader application by the DA to have the NPA's earlier decision not to charge Zuma for allegations that he was bribed during the arms deal, taken on review in court.

The "spy tapes" were used by the NPA to justify the decision not to prosecute Zuma, because they apparently showed that the Scorpions and the NPA conspired over the timing of Zuma's charging.

Jiba maintained that the NPA was a neutral party in the matter and that it did not have a view on whether or not the tapes should be handed over. Mokgoro and her panel disagreed entirely, and she was chastised for her handling of that case.

Why did Jiba do this? Was it all an effort to protect the president, or was it just an error of judgement?

We don't know. But it is not the first allegation that Jiba's actions conveniently benefitted the president, his family or friends.

The Johan Booysen matter is a case in point. Jiba was equally criticised by the Mokgoro panel for her decision to parachute in a team from outside KwaZulu-Natal to prosecute the former KZN Hawks head for racketeering. This involved allegations that he was running a hit squad out of the organised crime division of the Hawks in Cato Manor. The Sunday Times ran a series of exposes based on these allegations which it later retracted.

The Mokgoro panel heard evidence about the instruction from Jiba to her KZN colleagues, that NPA headquarters would be managing the case. Ultimately, her decision to prosecute Booysen was found to be irrational in court.

The panel, meanwhile, took issue with Jiba's ever changing explanation for why she did not let the KZN team handle the prosecution. The KZN prosecutions head said he never asked Jiba for her intervention.

Why? Why did Jiba push for Booysen's prosecution on spurious grounds, and why did she personally insert herself and her team into the case? What was Jiba's beef with Booysen?

It would appear that she genuinely believed he was the head of a racketeering operation that saw cops happily murdering suspects. But it would also appear as if Booysen was never the Cato Manor Unit's direct superior anyway, and as if his real occupation was pursuing corruption involving a politically-connected businessman.

In particular, and here is the one time that Zuma's name is mentioned in relation to allegations of wrongdoing, Booysen was investigating Thoshan Panday. Panday allegedly had business links to Zuma's family, the Mokgoro panel noted, without making conclusions about this aspect.

An amaBhungane report from 2015 details how Panday allegedly tried to bribe Booysen to make a corruption investigation against him go away, and how intercepted communications allegedly revealed how Panday boasted about his relationship with the former president.

In April this year, the state capture commission heard allegations that Edward Zuma, the former president's son, had tried to get R15m of Panday's frozen assets unfrozen. Zuma Jr allegedly approached Booysen about this because he was Panday's silent partner in about June 2010, News24 reported. (Edward Zuma denied this.)

The Mokgoro report makes no judgment on Booysen's innocence or guilt in the Cato Manor case, but it leaves open the question: Was Booysen unfairly targeted by Jiba? And why?

The answer to the question, again, lies with Jacob Zuma.

And then there is Mrwebi, who stopped the prosecution of crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, when the prosecutors on the case believed fervently that Mdluli had a case to answer. When a meeting was held about this in December 2011, Mrwebi apparently told them, "Colleagues, I presume you are here to test my powers."

Did Mrwebi want to protect Mdluli? The Mokgoro report does not say.

But why did Mdluli reportedly complain to Zuma and the police minister at the time, according to amaBhungane, when he believed the case against him was part of a plot to oust him, when the president obviously cannot intervene in criminal cases?

What prompted Mdluli to compile a questionable intelligence report to the effect that there was a conspiracy by Zuma's enemies to oust him, in 2010?

Zuma reportedly questioned the Inspector General for Intelligence's assessment, but the case against Mdluli was criminal and fell outside of her mandate. He reportedly attended an event held by Mdluli celebrating the withdrawal of the charges against him.

Why?

Only Zuma knows.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  state capture inquiry  |  mokgoro inquiry  |  corruption
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