South Africa

Mokgoro Inquiry

Mrwebi testifies that he was a casualty of political games within the NPA

Mrwebi testifies that he was a casualty of political games within the NPA

After four weeks of blistering testimonies at the Mokgoro Inquiry implicating Lawrence Mrwebi and Nomgcobo Jiba in judicial interference at the National Prosecution Authority, Mrwebi had his day in the witness stand. According to him, while doing his job, he was caught up in the political battles that infiltrated the NPA.

According to Mrwebi, now suspended Special Director of Public Prosecutions at the NPA, while performing his work at the National Prosecuting Authority he became a target of allegations to smear his reputation after uncovering evidence that implicated senior prosecutors and for writing reports about these.

Mrwebi claims that he became caught up in political infighting when he was simply doing his job. He cited two instances, during his tenure at KZN Scorpions in 2003 and later when he moved to Pretoria head office in 2007.

Earlier in the Mokgoro inquiry to determine the fitness of Mrwebi and Jiba to hold office at the NAP, allegations emerged that Mrwebi’s long-standing judicial interference in prosecutions stems back to when he was Head of KZN Scorpions in 2002. And that he was promoted regardless of his poor performance as a prosecutor.

However, for Mrwebi, that time represents a point where problems started in his career as he became a target within the NPA because he wrote a report about a “Scorpions confidential fund” that was meant to pay for informants but was used to pay off people involved in criminal activities.

Mrwebi filed a report about the misuse of funds that implicated senior prosecutors in the NPA, and from then his life became “a living hell”. And “after taking years of abuse” he eventually went to CCMA to report “unfair labour practices” claiming he was branded as a poor performing advocate and that he is being victimised for performing his job.

Mrwebi testified that again in 2007, during the arrest of police commissioner Jackie Selebi, he was further unwittingly involved in the case for doing his job when he wrote an affidavit that was subsequently used to help Selebi in his attempts to escape justice.

On 4 June 2007, according to Mrwebi, then NPA head Vusi Pikoli called a meeting with all senior prosecutors in the Scorpions to ask about the origin of the Browse Mole report — reportedly produced by team members of the Scorpions, which alleged that the then Deputy President Jacob Zuma was involved in a conspiracy to topple the government with the help of foreign powers.

According to Mrwebi, Pikoli seemed angry that the report was putting the government in a difficult position. And that President Thabo Mbeki is considering an investigation through the National Security Council.

Pikoli called a meeting to find out who in the Scorpions had drafted the Browse Mole report. Mrwebi then said he was not concerned because he knows he was not involved because he had just heard about it himself.

After the meeting, Mrwebi went back to his office in Durban.

On 27 July 2007, he was called to a Special meeting by the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) meeting in the head office at Pretoria to discuss a recent ANC conference resolution to disband the Scorpions. It became very clear that rumours that the Scorpions would be disbanded were causing panic, said Mrwebi.

In the meeting, members of the Scorpions discussed what could be done to help save the unit, which was planned to be placed under the SAPS.

And in September 2007, members of the National Security Council task team and Crime Intelligence investigating the Browse Mole report visited Mrwebi in his Durban office to inquire about any information he might have. They also asked him to write an affidavit about the Scorpions meeting.

“Was the next time you heard of the affidavit in January 2008?” said Mervyn Rip, counsel for Mrwebi.

According to Mrwebi, he received a call alerting him to read the Star newspaper and when he saw the front page article, Mrwebi, Selebi’s last hope he was shocked. He then called one of the members of crime intelligence to the task team to ask how the affidavit landed up in the Selebi case.

Selebi, as the police commissioner, used Mrwebi’s affidavit about the Scorpions’ survival to apply for a stay of prosecution, claiming that the charges against him were because the Scorpions did not want to be under the SAPS.

Mrwebi was informed that the documents were declassified in a legal manner.

“I accepted it although I was not happy,” said Mrwebi.

Mrwebi was put on special leave for writing the affidavit by then acting Head of NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe. But a settlement was later reached in which he returned to work after he instituted a labour case against the NPA.

According to Mrwebi, he had no intention of helping Selebi in his case when he drafted the affidavit.

Further allegations that Mrwebi had to clear up at the inquiry involved his decision to drop the corruption charges of then Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli in 2011.

When Mrwebi was appointed Special director and head of Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) in November 2011, he requested a brief about the case from Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach, who motivated that there was a prima facie case to prosecute.

According to Mrwebi, the report he received was not helpful to determine the merits of the case. For him, the fraud charges that involved a R90 000 shortfall in the purchase of two BMW’s for Mdluli and his wife did not have any direct link to Mdluli himself. All the transactions were done by Colonel Heine Barnard, Mdluli’s subordinate and co-accused in the fraud and corruption case brought by the NPA.

As a result of this, Mrwebi held the view that there is not enough evidence to prosecute Mdluli.

Willie Hofmeyr, Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, alleged during the early days of the inquiry that Mrwebi unilaterally decided to drop charges, whereas according to the NPA Act he was supposed to have consulted.

However, Mrwebi contends that he went to Sibongile Mzinyathi, North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions, as a courtesy because consulting in the NPA was not done.

Further criticism was laid against Mrwebi for back-dating a letter he wrote to inform Mzinyathi and Breytenbach about his decision not to prosecute.

Although the letter was submitted on 5 December, on the day the two senior prosecutors confronted Mrwebi about his unilateral decision, he sent them a letter, dated 4 December — the day before, about his decision not to prosecute after their meeting.

According to Mrwebi, this was a simple mistake he made by using a letterhead from another document and forgot to edit the date.

It is yet to be seen if his version of events will convince the panel that he is fit to hold office at the NPA. And whether President Cyril Ramaphosa will take the recommendation they submit to him. DM


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