Scathing judgment against Jiba and Mrwebi

2016-09-15 19:06
Nomgcobo Jiba (Picture: Supplied)

Nomgcobo Jiba (Picture: Supplied)

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Cape Town - Two of South Africa's most senior prosecutions officials, Nomgcobo Jiba and her colleague Lawrence Mrwebi, were struck off the roll of advocates of the General Council of the Bar of SA on Thursday over their handling of the Richard Mdluli matter.

"The names of Ms Nomgcobo Jiba (first respondent) and Mr Lawrence Sithembiso Mrwebi (second respondent) are hereby struck from the roll of advocates," ordered Judge Frans Legodi with Judge W Hughes in agreement in the High Court in Pretoria.

In a scathing 109-page judgment Legodi wrote: "I cannot believe that two officers of the court (advocates) who hold such high positions in the prosecuting authority will stoop so low for the protection and defence of one individual who had been implicated in serious offences."

They should have stood "firm and vigorous" and persisted with their prosecution of Mdluli on fraud and corruption charges.

"By their conduct, they did not only bring the prosecuting authority and the legal profession into disrepute, but have also brought the good office of the President of the Republic of South Africa into disrepute by failing to prosecute Mdluli who inappropriately suggested that he was capable of assisting the President of the country to win the party presidential election in Mangaung during 2011 should the charges be dropped against him."

The application by the General Council of the Bar of SA for the duo and South Gauteng head of prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi to be struck off the roll was made at the request of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

SA's image diminished

According to court papers, the State paid 75% of the NPA's costs to defend the matter, but Legodi said he decided to block out the "substantial" amount.

He said: "It is this kind of behaviour that diminishes the image of our country and its institutions which are meant to be impartial, independent and transparent in the exercise of their legislative powers."

He did not find a reason to strike Mzinyathi off the roll.

Legodi said Mrwebi was supposed to be part of a system that effectively investigated and prosecuted the surge of corruption and fraud and Jiba was the "commander in chief".
He said Mzinyathi and former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who is now a Democratic Alliance MP, were "foot soldiers" in this war. Jiba was supposed to "lead by example".

"But instead, she flouted every rule in the fight against crime. Her failure to intervene when she was required to do so has failed the citizens of this country and in the process, brought the image of the legal profession and prosecuting authority into disrepute. Both Mrwebi and Jiba should be found to have ceased to be fit and proper persons to remain on a roll of advocates."

The main issues of the application were:

- Jiba's authorising the charging of Cato Manor top cop Johan Booysen, allegedly without having seen the information needed to make that decision. The judge did not find against her on this and noted that there were other affidavits available, apart from the one Booysen pointed out did not exist at the time she said her decision was made.

- Jiba's handling of the DA's successful application to get a part of the record of the decision to drop charges of corruption against Zuma and Thint.

The DA fought tooth and nail to get the "spy tapes" while Jiba said she was checking to see what she could release and whether Zuma would allow it or not.

Jiba had explained that she was being very cautious to avoid handing over something she was not supposed to hand over. The court did not find there was enough cause to have her struck off on this.

The Mdluli case was her and Mrwebi's unravelling.

Jiba 'passing the buck'

Mdluli had been accused of murdering a love rival and also of fraud and corruption for allegedly abusing crime intelligence slush fund money.

The NPA however decided to withdraw the corruption charges against him. Lobby group Freedom Under Law (FUL) wanted the record that led to this decision, but delays and conduct over this appeared to be Jiba and Mrwebi's undoing.

The judge accused Jiba of dishonesty and of passing the buck in her handling of the FUL application.

She went through three sets of lawyers who withdrew from representing her, and a fourth said they could not support her decision because in their view there was allegedly a prima facie case against Mdluli.

The judge was startled by explanations from Jiba that she never received emails that she was supposed to have replied to, that she missed deadlines that she should have known about, and found that she "passed the buck" on having to explain why the charges against Mdluli were withdrawn.

As for Mrwebi, the judge found that he had not been honest in his handling of the withdrawal of the charges against Mdluli because there were discrepancies with dates of meetings; he had already made the decision to withdraw charges against Mdluli before consulting Mzinyathi and had already told Mdluli's lawyers about his decision.

He also attempted to claim that it was not a matter for the police but for the inspector general of intelligence to handle. He and Jiba also ignored the reservations Breytenbach and Mzinyathi had about withdrawing the charges.

Breytenbach was put through a disciplinary process over the Mdluli case and won on most of the points contested, but she resigned and went into politics.

Comment from the NPA and Jiba was not immediately available, but Jiba's lawyer Zola Majavu said she would appeal.

Read more on:    richard mdluli  |  corruption  |  judiciary

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