South Africa

Mokgoro Inquiry

Internal NPA legal adviser testifies to Jiba and Mrwebi’s prosecutorial overreach

Internal NPA legal adviser testifies to Jiba and Mrwebi’s prosecutorial overreach
Former KZN Scorpions head Lawrence Mrwebi in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 4, 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Herman Verwey) Adv. Nomgcobo Jiba during the press conference on Marikana case on September 4, 2012, in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave)

On the fifth day of the Mokgoro Inquiry to determine the fitness of Nomcgobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office, NPA internal legal adviser, Gerhardus Nel, described how decisions were made which often disregarded his legal opinion.

During the first week of the Mokgoro inquiry Nomgcobo Jiba, now suspended Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and Lawrence Mrwebi, suspended Special Director of Public Prosecutions, were fingered in the derailing of high profile cases within the NPA and accused of abusing their prosecutorial powers to pursue criminal charges against rivals.

Earlier in the week, evidence leader, Nazreen Bawa, established the terms of reference to determine whether Jiba and Mrwebi should be reinstated back to their old posts at the NPA or whether they were unfit to serve at the Prosecuting Authority.

Bawa intends to show through the inquiry that both suspended NPA bosses contravened numerous NPA acts through their prosecutorial overreach in as far as decisions were made by prosecuting some cases where little evidence existed, while others were dropped where there was prima facie evidence to prosecute.

Testifying on Friday, Advocate Gerhardus Nel, head of the Legal Advisory Division (LAD) within the NPA said Jiba and Mrwebi often ignored his legal counsel with respect to the handling of criminal cases.

Nel’s role within the NPA was to provide a legal opinion on whether a case should be prosecuted or not. He testified to preparing a legal opinion related to two cases, that of former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and that of KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss, Johan Booysen.

He said he advised Jiba that the state had a prima facie case against Mdluli, who was facing charges of corruption. In the Booysen matter, (Booysen was arrested in 2012 on allegations of heading the “Cato Manor death squad”), Nel testified that he advised that there was not enough evidence to successfully prosecute him.

His advice was ignored, he testified.

Jiba and Mrwebi later argued, through their legal representatives, that the decisions they made were a result of extensive consultation with other advocates within the NPA and that they have the communique to show it.

Advocate Shaun Ferguson, representing Jiba, presented a number of memorandums which authorised her to act as she did on said cases.

However, Nel stated that as Head of LAD he had never seen any of the documents presented to him as evidence of Jiba’s internal consultation with other advocates.

Advocate Mervyn Rip, representing Mrwebi, argued that Nel’s job was to construct a well-reasoned memo and not to decide on the details presented to him by the prosecutors on why they decided to prosecute or not.

He claimed that Mrwebi was being targeted because of a decision he took to prosecute a fellow advocate in KwaZulu-Natal for theft and corruption.

Nel responded that he had no knowledge of the case that Mrwebi was referring to and that the suspension of Mrwebi and Jiba was based on multiple complaints from NPA employees.

Booysen, who is due to testify at the inquiry on Friday, has consistently accused the NPA of unfair prosecution.

Glynnis Breytenbach, a former NPA prosecutor, who questioned the withdrawal of charges against Mrwebi is expected to testify on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Jiba and Mrwebi have also been named in the Zondo Commission of receiving payments from Bosasa management to run interference in criminal cases against the company. Testifying at the Zondo Commission, former COO of Bosasa Angelo Agrizzi provided an audio recording where a man, allegedly Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson mentions Jiba, Mrwebi and other NPA employees in their plans to get information regarding criminal cases. They have denied involvement. DM

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