The Constitutional Court has unanimously ruled that the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) has failed to establish that its leave to appeal application to strike former National Prosecuting Authority senior officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi from the roll of advocates falls under its jurisdiction.
This ruling, delivered on Thursday, upheld the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment that reinstated Jiba and Mrwebi after the North Gauteng High Court ruled, in favour of the bar, to strike them off the roll in 2016.
The Constitutional Court said that the bar failed in its quest to prove that it had jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter, this after the GCB “contended that the Supreme Court’s ruling raised constitutional issues given that the interpretation and application of the National Prosecution Authority’s Act was being questioned. Moreover, the GCB submitted that an arguable point of law of general public importance was being raised.”
“This court concludes that the GCB’s course of action was solely based on Section 7 of the Admission of Advocates Act, as a result the NPA’s Act finds no application in this matter,” the 10 Constitutional Court judges found.
Jiba’s lawyer Zola Majavu had argued that “the attack” on his client was “being based purely on Section 7 of the Admission of Advocates Act and whether or not they remain fit and proper to be admitted advocates”, hence the Constitutional Court had no bearing on the matter.
‘Jiba, Mrwebi are fit and proper advocates’
Earlier this year the GCB approached the Constitutional Court following a majority judgment, authored by Appeal Court Judge Jeremiah Shongwe, who found that the bar could not establish any misconduct on Jiba and Mrwebi.
Jiba was acting national director of public prosecutions between December 2011 and August 2013.
Jiba and Mrwebi were struck from the roll of advocates in September 2016, after Judge Francis Legodi agreed with the GCB that they were “not fit and proper” to be advocates.
The case went to the appeals court in Bloemfontein after the two advocates appealed the ruling, and in July last year it overturned the high court’s judgment.
Jiba and Mrwebi were then dismissed as advocates by President Cyril Ramaphosa following recommendations made in a report by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro.
The report, handed to the president this year on March 31, came after an inquiry into the pair’s fitness to hold office after their respective suspensions in October 2018.
The pair had expressed that “all they want is to go on practising as advocates”, and Thursday’s ruling has afforded them the opportunity to do this.
Additionally the Constitutional Court also upheld that Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi – who was also taken to the high court with Jiba and Mrwebi – did not have to pay costs for the case against him by the GCB. Mzinyathi was cleared by the high court after it was found that there was not enough evidence against his removal from the advocates roll.