Editorial: Is it NPA heads or tales?

2016-09-18 06:10
Nomgcobo Jiba

Nomgcobo Jiba

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A fundamental principle of criminal justice systems the world over is that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done to maintain the faith of ordinary citizens in the system.

In a week that saw two of the country’s most senior prosecutors, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, struck off the roll of advocates, the leadership of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the country should be asking themselves why the public would have any faith in them.

“Flouted every rule in the fight against crime”; “stooped so low for the protection and defence of one individual”; “failed the citizens of this country”; “steadfast [in defying] logic and advice” – this is not the tone a judge usually takes when referring to the country’s top prosecutors.

These findings are fundamentally at odds with the words that cut to the very core of what the Constitution mandates the leadership of the NPA to do: words such as “integrity”, “honesty” and “without fear, favour or prejudice” apply not only to an official’s role in the NPA but also to their character.

In Jiba’s case, they render her “no longer a fit and proper person to hold the office concerned” – and thus liable for immediate suspension by President Jacob Zuma, according to the NPA Act.

The only way to convince the public that the leadership of the NPA and the country is not pursuing a furtive, sinister mandate is for action to be taken and a recommendation to be made that Zuma suspend Jiba and Mrwebi without delay.

That the two have indicated their intention to appeal the high court judgment has no bearing on the issue.

A suspension preserves their rights to due process, while also protecting the rights of the citizenry to a criminal justice system that is free from suspicion and scandal.

Do the rights of these two outweigh the interests of an entire nation in knowing that the engine driving our criminal justice system is not led by individuals who – on the strength of the judgment – flouted every ethical principle that governed their jobs?

What could be more important than that?

Should NPA head Shaun Abrahams and Justice Minister Michael Masutha embark on a further exercise of obfuscation, inactivity or contempt for public concern, they will be telling us all that these two individuals are somehow more valuable than the fundamental tenets supporting our criminal justice system and our constitutional order.

Read more on:    npa  |  nomgcobo jiba  |  lawrence mrwebi

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