South Africa

The Jiba Fracas, Act II: Down the rabbit hole with the NPA

By Stephen Grootes 27 March 2015

This week has seen the NPA claiming that its deputy head, Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, is “avoiding” police; the police saying that the NPA is “jumping the gun” to issue her with a summons; and Jiba herself saying that she’ll “discuss it all” with her boss when she gets to see him. Head spinning? Ours too. By STEPHEN GROOTES.

Question: How do you understand what is going on at the National Prosecuting Authority, the police, and the Justice cluster?

Answer: By jumping into not one, but two separate rabbit holes.

This week’s fracas has its roots in a statement by the NPA that Jiba was avoiding police who had to serve a summons upon her for her role in a case in Durban. Essentially, she now faces two charges of fraud and one of perjury. That’s what happens when you sign a formal decision to prosecute, based on a statement, when the aforesaid statement doesn’t yet exist. And when the person who was charged is the Kwa-Zulu/Natal head of the Hawks. It’s serious.

On Wednesday afternoon, the police went public, claiming that the NPA was not allowed to issue a summons against Jiba, and that its own investigation into whether she broke the law by formally deciding to charge Johan Booysen was not yet at a point where the summons could be issued.

More was to come. Nxasana himself did a series of radio interviews, pointing out that the police had issued the summons, not his organisation. Then, as jaws continued to head downward, he explained that he had received not one, but two phone calls from National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega, in a bid to stop the summons from being issued – and he said the investigating officer in the case had been removed. In other words, the national police commissioner had tried to stop a simple summons from being served on Jiba.

Why on earth would she do that? How similar a scene it must have been to when Vusi Pikoli tried to lodge charges against Jackie Selebi?

While the crisis in our police and prosecution services has been some time in the making (probably dating back either to the ANC’s Polokwane Conference, or perhaps, to Mbeki’s decision to appoint Bulelani Ngcuka as the NPA’s first head), one fact is central to the conflict: Jiba has been criticised by judges in cases relating to the Zuma Spy Tapes, the decision to withdraw charges against former police crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli, and her bid to institute charges against KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen. That is, she has played a role in stopping the DA from getting the tapes, protecting Mdluli, and trying unlawfully to prosecute someone who was cracking down on corruption in KwaZulu-Natal.

If you accept that, everything else may start to fall into place. If you don’t, then take issue with the judgments that have been issued in this regard (The Zuma Spy Tapes and Mdluli).

This surely explains why Phiyega got involved. Surely there was a phone call from someone in the Union Buildings to someone in her office – and that someone wanted to make absolutely sure that Jiba could not be summonsed in this way.

This tells us two things: firstly, that the person involved was very powerful; powerful enough to pull Phiyega’s strings, and secondly, that they had enough at stake to make the effort. Now, who do you think that could be? Anyone…? Yes, that’s what we thought too.

It is difficult to come up with someone else as powerful, with that much to lose, and we’ve suggested before that this is perhaps one of the reasons behind Jiba’s role at the NPA. What is the explanation of her protection of Mdluli and her refusal to hand over the Zuma Spy Tapes to the DA? And, of course, there is the same eternal question behind every mystery: who benefits?

The identity of this particular beneficiary may also explain Jiba’s silence on the matter, even though any diligent reporter must necessarily also attempt to get her side of the story. As this was publicly a dispute between her and her employer, Jiba had to be prepared for a phone call. When finally this reporter was able to get through, her manner could be best described as ‘abrupt’. “No, I have nothing to say…I will speak to the NDPP as my supervisor when I see him.” Click.

Is this the behaviour of someone who is ashamed of what they have done? Or is it the behaviour of someone who is in the right, but feeling cornered? You will have to decide for yourself.

The police have an argument to offer as well. They say that it was not “untoward” for Phiyega, when told that the NPA were moving too early, to try to intervene. They point out that the key is for the integrity of the investigation not to be compromised, which it could be, should anyone move too hastily.

Another point to consider is that the NPA is not necessarily the usual neutral party one would expect it to be in a normal criminal case. It is the complainant in this matter. Thus, you could argue, there is a strong motive to act quickly. As we’ve said before, Nxasana himself may well have a motive here, perhaps to ensure Jiba does not run the NPA on a temporary basis again while he is suspended during the upcoming inquiry into his fitness for office.

These are perfectly reasonable arguments.

But, in the end, we have to go back to the unassailable facts as we know them. Jiba has acted improperly in three important cases, all with political implications. Only he – you know, him – has the power to suspend her. And he has not done that.

Why not? Who benefits? DM

Grootes is an EWN reporter and host of 702/567 Midday Report.

Photo: Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN.

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