Parliament does not have to reopen inquiry into Jiba and Mrwebi - legal adviser

The Mokgoro Inquiry into the fitness of advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office. (Twitter)
The Mokgoro Inquiry into the fitness of advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office. (Twitter)

It is not up to Parliament to reopen an inquiry into the removal of Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

This was part of the legal advice the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services and select committee on security and justice received on Wednesday. President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to fire Jiba and Mrwebi was referred to both houses of Parliament.

Parliamentary legal adviser Siviwe Njikela told the committees that while Parliament's rules do not provide a procedure to be followed in such a case, the Constitution does empower it to determine its own procedures.

He said the committees could therefore decide how they would proceed, adding the process should be fair, meaning that both parties' side should be heard.

Njikela said it would not be necessary to have hearings, as this was done at the Mokgoro inquiry.

He added they should consider the inquiry's report, Jiba and Mrwebi's representations as well as Ramaphosa's decision.

"It seems to me the president went to great lengths to hear both parties. There seems to have been a very thorough process," Njikela said.

He added the matter before Parliament was not whether Jiba and Mrwebi should be fired, but whether they should be restored to their posts at the NPA.

The committees also wanted to know whether DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach should recuse herself.

Before becoming an MP in 2014, Breytenbach was a senior prosecutor at the NPA, and Jiba, the then-acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, suspended her after she raised questions about Mrwebi's decision not to prosecute then-acting crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.

Breytenbach also testified at the Mokgoro inquiry.

Njikela said even though Breytenbach was a witness at the inquiry, she was part of a committee and would not be solely responsible for a decision on Jiba and Mrwebi's future, therefore there was no need for her to recuse herself.

Breytenbach has, however, indicated that she would recuse herself from proceedings.

Njikela said her recusal was appreciated, as it would "enhance the perception of fairness" of the proceedings.

In April, Ramaphosa fired Jiba and Mrwebi after retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro recommended that he should sack them from the NPA following the inquiry.

It "found that both officials are not fit and proper to hold their respective offices", according to a statement from the presidency.

Mokgoro's report said Jiba's conduct on multiple occasions showed a "lack of conscientiousness", while Mrwebi was found to have failed to act without favour, and to the prejudice of the NPA.

Last month, the Constitutional Court denied the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) leave to appeal an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal, which reinstated Jiba and Mrwebi on the roll of advocates.

Jiba and Mrwebi were struck from the roll on September 15, 2016, after Judge Francis Legodi in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria agreed with the GCB that they were "not fit and proper" to be advocates.

The matter went to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which overturned the High Court's ruling, but the GCB approached the Constitutional Court for relief.

The Constitutional Court found the GCB had not established that the matter fell within the jurisdiction of the court.

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