Mokgoro inquiry: Prosecutors accused of political bias for pursuing certain cases

2019-01-22 17:33
Nomgcobo Jiba Foto: Theana Breugem

Nomgcobo Jiba Foto: Theana Breugem (Foto: Theana Breugem)

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A senior advocate told the Mokgoro inquiry - which is looking into the fitness of former prosecutions bosses - that prosecutors would be accused of being politically biased whenever they pursued cases against certain politicians.

This was revealed by former senior deputy director of public prosecutions, Chris MacAdam, on Tuesday. 

OVERVIEW: #MokgoroInquiry - 'We had a very cordial relationship' - MacAdam on working with Jiba

The inquiry is looking into the fitness of suspended deputy prosecutions boss Nomgcobo Jiba and former special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office.

Inquiry chairperson Justice Yvonne Mokgoro asked MacAdam on Tuesday if he thought prosecutors were faced with political or economic pressure when they made decisions to investigate, or to permit an investigation.  

"I certainly have experience of that," he responded.

"For many years I was involved in the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. The minute you started an investigation that targets the political party, in certain instances, the national director would tell me: 'The leader of that party had phoned the president and told the president get rid of MacAdam and drop that investigation,'" he said.

"At another level, there would then be protest action at the court, everybody demanding that we drop the case, release the accused..."

Politically biased

MacAdam also said there were some instances prosecutors would be accused of being politically biased and of targeting certain politicians.

He told the inquiry he was removed from cases dealing with foreign bribery.

Then National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams reshuffled his deputies and Jiba was in charge of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, he said.

MacAdam testified that senior state advocate Andrea Johnson informed him that Jiba had decided that the foreign bribery cases should be transferred to the Specialist Commercial Crimes Unit.

MacAdam said he complied with the request because he assumed it was coming from Abrahams. However, he received communication from the former NDPP saying he should continue with his mandate.

He said soon after the files were taken from him, he submitted a report to Mrwebi, telling him that there was a lack of progress in the investigations of the foreign bribery cases which he had been working on.

"If we look at the report, either no investigation had been done… clearly steps could have been done to take those investigations further," he said.

But advocate Mervyn Rip, representing Mrwebi, hit back at MacAdam and said: "Your real gripe here is that you were removed. That has concluded your entire view on this matter."

"I deny it emphatically," MacAdam responded.

MacAdams also told the inquiry that he worked well with Jiba and he apologised to Mokgoro "if I created an impression that I was removed by advocate Jiba". 

MacAdam: If we look at the report either no investigation had been done… clearly steps could have been done to take those investigations further. #MokgoroInquiry @TeamNews24

In July last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that Jiba and Mrwebi be struck from the roll of advocates.

However, the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) later filed papers in the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the SCA ruling.

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