South Africa


The Inquiry process is unfair, says Lawrence Mrwebi

The Inquiry process is unfair, says Lawrence Mrwebi
Suspended special director of public prosecutions Advocate Lawrence Mrwebi back at the Mokgoro Inquiry for cross-examination on 22 February 2019. Screengrab from ENCA.

In the second day of his cross-examination at the Mokgoro Inquiry, Lawrence Mrwebi began his opening statement by stating to the panel that the inquiry that has been set up to determine his fitness to hold office at the NPA has so far been unfair to him. He argued that the information provided does not show the full picture of events leading up to the dropping of the Richard Mdluli case.

Mrwebi, who has been suspended from his position of Special Director at the NPA pending the findings of the inquiry, stated that he finds the inquiry process to be “extremely unfair”. This was a day after advocate Nazreen Bawa cross-examined him regarding his role in halting the fraud and corruption charges of former Crime Intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli.

According to Mrwebi, because his “career is in jeopardy” he felt “compelled to raise concerns” about the design of the process. He was not told on what basis the allegations against him were brought forward and who the persons are who are making these allegations.

This comes a day after Bawa had questioned Mrwebi on Thursdayregarding the facts contained in the Mdluli provisional charge sheet that he was provided with when he became head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) and against which he decided to drop the charges.

Mrwebi earlier testified that he has always had a target on his back within the NPA from way back in 2002 when he was still in the Scorpions in kwaZulu-Natal where he wrote a report implicating senior NPA officials for misappropriation of funds.

On Thursday, before the cross-examination could commence, Mrwebi requested to make a statement about the process which he has been put under, saying that since the inquiry started on 21 January he did not know what to expect and what he was accused of, other than the allegation that he is not fit to hold office.

Mrwebi went on to state that the only time he knew what it was that he must answer to was when a witness came to the stand to accuse him, which put him in a corner where he was forced to run like a “headless chicken” looking for evidence to exonerate himself.

It makes life difficult for me to prepare,” said Mrwebi.

He said he thought this inquiry would go out to collect all the evidence, not only to implicate him, but to help the evidence leader to make a good judgment.

So when the Mdluli case was put before him, he found it difficult to answer questions when he knew there was evidence and it should have been collected to assist the inquiry to come to a legitimate decision regarding his fitness to hold office.

What particularly irked him was the allegations that he mishandled the Mdluli case when he decided to take it to the Inspector General to investigate further rather than pursue prosecution.

Advocate Chris Smith, the lead prosecutor at that time, wrote a brief report to Mrwebi about the Mdluli case and motivated that there was prima facieevidence to prosecute.

However, Mrwebi had a different view because the evidence presented fingered Heine Barnard (Mdluli’s subordinate) without linking Mdluli personally. He then referred the matter to the Inspector General (IG) to investigate further and get a hold of some classified documents within Crime Intelligence so that the charges could be instituted at a later stage.

Mrwebi’s decision to push the case to the IG and for documents to be declassified was seen as a controversial move to frustrate prosecutions when there was already sufficient evidence to prosecute. Bawa questioned Mrwebi on why he made such a move because the IG does not investigate crimes that are subject to a court.

Mrwebi argued that the inspector had done a similar investigation regarding the abuse of funds by personnel in the intelligence community. This was not an abnormal request but a reasonable move to ensure the integrity of the NPA, he said.

When the matter was subsequently handed to IPID, the Minister of Police was approached to declassify these documents but this was consistently refused. All of this is public knowledge and was debated in the parliamentary committee, he said.

At the inquiry, Mrwebi stated that he expected the evidence leader to collect all the relevant information for the case, including these documents, to get a full picture of the case rather than present a one-sided view of the lead prosecutor of the case who made a brief report.

We do not have subpoena powers and cannot make any person come to the inquiry,” said Bawa.

According to Bawa, the inquiry has made requests for people to attend and have ensured that everything in the courts is also part of the evidence in the inquiry.

Mrwebi contended that Mdluli’s fingerprints are nowhere to be seen on the fraud and corruption case, although it was on his behalf by his colleagues. And if the case was investigated further, then something would come up but at that moment it was only suspicions, he said.

Bawa asked Mrwebi if his assessment was that there was nothing unlawful in the loan agreement that Mdluli had obtained with Atlantis Ford, a supplier of service cars to his unit.

The loan agreement does not prove offence,” said Mrwebi.

According to Mrwebi, the charges related to “unlawful gratification” of public funds by a civil servant and the evidence did not point to this.

Bawa asked Mrwebi if he thought a crime was committed and if he thought the problem was that he could not link Mdluli to that crime.

There was a suspicion that a crime was committed. However, even the investigators could not tell whose signature it was on the loan agreement although the cars were used by Mdluli, said Mrwebi.

The inquiry continues on Monday. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.