South Africa

Mokgoro Inquiry, Day 4

Testimony fingers Mrwebi over former Crime Intelligence boss Mdluli — and conflicting reports on Jiba prosecution

Former KZN Scorpions head Lawrence Mrwebi in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 4, 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Herman Verwey)

The fourth day of the Mokgoro inquiry into the fitness of Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi’s fitness to hold office at the National Prosecuting Authority saw conflicting reports on criminal charges against Jiba, while witness testimony shed light on Mrwebi’s involvement in former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli’s corruption cover-ups.

Senior public prosecutor Jan Ferreira told the Mokgoro inquiry that former head of Crime Intelligence Richard Mdluli took a loan from Atlantis Nissan — the biggest supplier of surveillance vehicles to Crime Intelligence — and bought two BMWs for himself and his wife after trading in his old company car.

When this was discovered in 2012 and an investigation was instituted into fraud and corruption — unlawful gratification of a discount for the cars and unlawful gratification of a loan from Nissan — the case came to a halt when suspended senior National Prosecuting Authority official Lawrence Mrwebi became involved.

Ferreira’s testimony comes after counsel for suspended acting Deputy Director of the NPA Nomgcobo Jiba had attempted to bar him from testifying on Wednesday due to a possible criminal case against Jiba, which they feared would unduly prejudice their client.

But after listening to heads of arguments from both sides on Thursday, Justice Yvonne Mokgoro allowed Ferreira to testify.

We have considered all the submissions from both side of counsel of Jiba and Mrewbi, and the evidence team of the inquiry… we have found no basis in law and within the parameters of this inquiry that would preclude advocate Ferreira from testifying at this stage of the proceedings,” said Mokgoro.

Evidence team leader, Nazreen Bawa, proceeded to lead Ferreira through his testimony.

According to Ferreira, shortly after Menzi Simelane was appointed as NPA director by President Jacob Zuma in 2009, he began to make changes in the organisation. At this point, Mrwebi became involved in the Mdluli case.

You expressed a concern when Mrwebi engaged with you on the matter of the prosecution (of Mdluli),” said Bawa.

We thought it was not proper for Mrwebi to deal with the representation, but (that) it should be with the national director,” said Ferreira.

After Mrwebi became involved in the Mdluli case, a memo was released declining to prosecute, because of lack of evidence, allegations that the police were fabricating evidence and that the police had it in for Mdluli. Ferreira said these reasons appeared flimsy since there was prima facie evidence to prosecute. What was clear was that this decision was final and the matter was closed.

Ferreira and advocates he worked with on the case drafted a memo arguing that the problem was that, as head of Crime Intelligence, Mdluli went to the biggest supplier of surveillance vehicles to his unit and obtained a loan. And by obtaining a loan from the supplier, it was safe to say there were elements of corruption which would prompt an investigation.

Furthermore, the “loan” was only signed for a year after the money had changed hands, which indicated that it was a disguise for a transaction of money for something else. And even if it wasn’t, the loan still constituted corruption. Ferreira said they could not find evidence that Mdluli had gone to his superiors to seek permission for the loan.

Ferreira then reported to the director of Public Prosecutions that there was enough prima facie evidence to seek prosecution and that Mrwebi, as a special director, did not have the authority to interfere. Even if he had the power to do so, said Ferreira, the relevant act states that he has to act in consultation with other advocates.

Ally Ramawele, for Mrwebi, referred Ferreira to earlier testimony by Chris Jordaan, who said on the first day of the inquiry that in his time at the NPA no one had ever interfered in his work.

According to Ramawele, the reality of how things work at the NPA is in “complete contrast” to Ferreira’s testimony.

Ferreira said that although that had been the case before Jordaan left in 2011 after prolonged sick leave, things changed when Simelane took office.

During the inquiry, Jiba’s counsel Zola Majavu told inquiry chair Justice Mokgoro that he had received written confirmation that the North West director of public prosecutions, Johan Smit, under whose jurisdiction a case of fraud and perjury against Jiba falls, had decided not to prosecute.

However, evidence team leader Bawa informed Justice Mokgoro that acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Silas Ramaite had told her on the phone on Thursday morning that he had not made a decision on whether to prosecute.

The charges date back to 2015 when former NPA head Shaun Abrahams withdrew the charges against Jiba. In 2017 the Pretoria High Court set aside that decision.

Jiba has been named in the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture when Angelo Agrizzi testified that she had received R100,000 a month from Bosasa.

The inquiry continues on 25 January at Centurion with advocate Gerrie Nel on the witness stand. DM

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