Mrwebi 'invented' reason for dropping Mdluli charges, judge finds

2013-09-23 14:56

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Lawrence Mrwebi, head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s specialised commercial crimes unit (SCCU) , “probably invented” an explanation as to why he dropped corruption charges against Richard Mdluli.

And his boss at the time, acting NPA head Nomgcobo Jiba, failed in her constitutional duty by remaining “supine” in the face of the public outcry over Mdluli.

These were just two of the many explosive findings made by Judge John Murphy in the North Gauteng High Court today.

In what can be considered a damning indictment of the NPA's leadership, Murphy has overturned Mrwebi’s decision to drop corruption charges against suspended police spy boss Richard Mdluli, as well as a separate decision to drop murder, kidnapping and assault charges against Mdluli.

The judge has also found that Jiba failed in a constitutional duty to be “responsive, accountable and transparent”.

Murphy ruled the decision to withdraw fraud and corruption charges, taken by Mrwebi in February last year, was “illegal, irrational, based on irrelevant considerations and material errors of law and ultimately so unreasonable that no reasonable prosecutor could have taken it”.

Murphy found that Mrwebi’s recent contention that he had only made a decision to “provisionally withdraw” charges against Mdluli was inconsistent with evidence.

The judge ruled that “Mrwebi’s pronouncements at the time evinced an unequivocal intention to stop proceedings altogether.

“Mrwebi considered the referral (of the case) to the inspector general of intelligence (IGI) as 'dispositive'; in his letter of 30 March 2012 to Hawks General (Anwa) Dramat he referred to the matter as 'closed'.”

Murphy said Mrwebi’s “new version is implausible and probably invented after the fact, in what Freedom Under Law (FUL) submits was a 'last-ditch attempt to explain its otherwise indefensible approach'”.

Murphy also found that Mrwebi had “irrationally adhered” to his insistence that only the IGI could investigate Mdluli despite assurances from the office of the IGI that only the police could investigate.

Much of this finding was based on the cross-examination of Mrwebi by senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach’s lawyer, Advocate Wim Trengove, in her disciplinary hearing.

Breytenbach has accused both Jiba and Mrwebi of being complicit in an attempt to protect Mdluli from prosecution.

City Press previously reported that Jiba had relied on an affidavit from Mdluli, which included secret transcripts of conversations between senior NPA officials, when she was facing her own disciplinary case.

Read: Spy tapes: the sequel

Mdluli wrote to President Jacob Zuma in 2011, saying “in the event that I come back to work, I will assist the President to succeed next year”.

Judge Murphy noted this entreaty “implied the Mdluli believed he had it in his gift to use his influence and the means at his disposal to the advantage of the President”.

Mrwebi was appointed by Zuma to head up the SCCU late in 2011.

Murphy has also overturned the decision by Andrew Chauke, provincial head of the NPA in South Gauteng, to withdraw 17 charges of attempted murder, assault and kidnapping against Mdluli.

“Chauke ... ignored some of the inquest findings, saying simply that the magistrate had found there was no evidence implicating Mdluli. Clearly there is evidence implicating Mdluli."

Murphy found it was “difficult to fathom” why Chauke had not proceeded with charges against Mdluli after a November inquest into the death of Oupa Ramokgibe found nobody could be held accountable for the death.

“If he did not want to pursue the murder charge on the basis of the inquest finding, he had a duty to continue with the balance of the charges and has given no reason for not proceeding.

“The evidence given in relation to them during the inquest, on the limited information available, looks reasonably cogent and compelling."

Murphy found that there was a “compelling prima facie” case against Mdluli on these charges and that it was “puzzling” that Chauke had declined to prosecute based on the findings of an inquest.

The police’s decisions to drop disciplinary charges against Mdluli and to reinstate him as head of crime intelligence have also been overturned.

The NPA’s spokesperson, Bulelwa Makeke, said it was studying the judgment.

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