South Africa

Mokgoro Inquiry

Ramaphosa upholds Mokgoro recommendation, fires Jiba and Mrwebi

Former KZN Scorpions head Lawrence Mrwebi in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 4, 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Herman Verwey); Deputy National Prosecuting Authority head, Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba during a media briefing on August 18, 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Cornel van Heerden).

President Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to axe two embattled senior prosecutors, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, from the National Prosecuting Authority, after retired Justice Yvonne Mokgoro recommended that the pair be dismissed. Next step, the sixth parliament must uphold or reject his decision after elections.

According to a statement from the President, on Thursday evening, Ramaphosa sent letters of dismissal to Nomgcobo Jiba, who held the position of Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions (DNDPP) and Lawrence Mrwebi, Special Director of Public Prosecutions (SDPP).

This comes after a damning report from the Mokgoro Inquiry was released which recommended to the President that he fire the pair and restore the public reputation of the prosecuting authority.

Jiba and Mrwebi were suspended in October 2018 when Ramaphosa made a decision to institute an inquiry into their conduct and their fate in the NPA.

In her answering affidavit to the President regarding the Mokgoro report, Jiba argues that she has not been found guilty by any court and that the Mokgoro Inquiry has “sought to lay blame for incorrect decisions and general failing of the NPA” solely on her while ignoring the role of other prosecutors.

While mistakes may have been made, in the absence of a mal fides these do not justify my removal from the positions of DNDPP,” read Jiba’s affidavit.

Mrwebi’s sought to defend his discretion as a prosecutor in his answering affidavit to the President.

On this point I ask the Honourable President to consider carefully the chilling effect, on the body of prosecutors in the country generally and on prosecutorial independence in particular, of a removal of a prosecutor from office primarily because such prosecutor applied their minds on the facts that were placed before at the time and arrived at a judicial conclusion that such facts were inadequate to press ahead with prosecution,” pleaded Mrwebi.

Justice Yvonne Mokgoro’s report has found that the pair are “not fit and proper” to hold office as public officials in the prosecuting authority. According to the report, Jiba and Mrwebi “undermined the principles of a high standard of professional ethics, accountability and transparency” in their conduct in high profile criminal cases.

Of particular interest to the inquiry was the fraud and corruption charges against former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli where Mrwebi is implicated as having unlawfully dropped the charges despite prima facie evidence to prosecute.

Also of interest was the racketeering charges of former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen, where Jiba is said to have used judicial overreach to institute charges outside her jurisdiction and without following proper NPA processes.

These two cases took centre stage within the report where the now-dismissed senior NPA officials were found to have been less than candid in how they handled the prosecutions.

The inquiry found that Mrwebi ignored the evidence of the case, counsel from other prosecutors and made a unilateral decision without consulting Sibongile Mzinyathi, the North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions and his direct senior supervisor.

And when she was at the Acting National Director of Public Prosecution, Jiba assisted Mrwebi in withdrawing the case against Mdluli. Furthermore, the report noted that regarding the Booysen matter she also “did not consult with the KZN Director of Public Prosecution on whose jurisdiction the case fell and whose approval was required”.

Jiba and Mrwebi are concurrently fighting a battle at the Constitutional Court not to be struck off the roll of advocates brought by the General Council of the Bar after they won on appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Ramaphosa will now submit his decision to dismiss Jiba and Mrwebi from the NPA to the national assembly within two weeks as per the constitutional requirement. The sixth parliament will then decide on whether to uphold the President’s decision or to reinstate the pair back into their positions.

According to Glynnis Breytenbach, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Justice and former prosecutor at the NPA, Ramaphosa only came to this decision through the pressure from the DA, Freedom Under Law, Helen Suzman Foundation and various other NGOs who made the matter known to the public.

It will be interesting to see if the ANC is able to retain its majority in parliament, which way it will decide. DM


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