Pretoria – Unrepentant and a dishonest person – these were the words used by a judge to describe Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba.
In addition, Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit head Lawrence Mrwebi was referred as a liar and someone who seemed to have forgotten about the oath he took when he was admitted as an advocate.In making these damning findings in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Thursday, Judge Francis Legodi put an end to Jiba and Mrwebi’s careers as advocates. Judge Legodi, in a lengthy judgment concurred by Judge Wendy Hughes, ordered that the pairs be struck from the roll of advocates.
The judge did not mince his words when he commented on how Jiba and Mrwebi especially dealt with the dropping of charges against suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.The two judges were adamant that neither Jiba, nor Mrwebi, was fit to practise as an advocate any longer.
Mrwebi said it was “painful” that the court had found that he should be struck off the roll of advocates.
Both Jiba and Mrwebi will apply for leave to appeal.
Judge Johan Kriegler, of Freedom Under Law, said he hoped prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams would now act against Jiba – his deputy – and give her the boot.
“Both she and Mrwebi can no longer hold office, as they are no longer advocates.”
Abrahams’s office simply said he had noted the judgment and would reflect on it as to the way forward. Justice Minister Michael Masutha declined to comment.
The judgment followed an application by the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB), which mostly based its application on remarks made by judges regarding the conduct of the advocates during three high-profile and political cases.
These were in the litigation between the National Prosecuting Authority and Freedom Under Law regarding the decision to drop corruption charges against Mdluli, the so-called Jacob Zuma spy tapes, and their handling of the matter of KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen.
The GBC also asked for the axing of North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi. But the judges only had praise for the advocate in turning down the allocation.
“Mzinyathi, in my view, should be commended for standing firm against Mrwebi’s withdrawal of the charges against Mdluli,” Judge Legodi said.
But it was totally a different story when the judge dealt with Jiba and Mrwebi, whose conduct, especially in the Mdluli matter, he condemned.
The judge said: “There was everything untoward about the decision to withdraw the charges against Mdluli, as there was a prima facie case against (him) in the corruption and fraud charges.”
Jiba, however, was set at all costs not to have the charges proceed and protect Mdluli by all means. “Jiba was steadfast to do everything in her power to ensure that the charges against Mdluli were permanently withdrawn. By doing so she was mala fide (acted in bad faith) and displayed ulterior motive and thus offended against the rule of law and the Constitution.
“She must be found to be no longer a fit and proper person to remain on a roll of advocates… Her conduct was wanting and inconsistent with the conduct of a lawyer…”
He also criticised the evidence given by Mrwebi in the disciplinary hearing of Glynnis Breytenbach and said his evidence was patently dishonestly given.
“He seems to have forgotten the oath he took as a witness, but also as an officer of the court when he was admitted in 1988â€¦ There cannot be any excuse for his lies.”
The judge also found Mrwebi to have been dishonest and that he sought to mislead the court in the Freedom Under Law matter in which the NGO asked that charges be reinstated against Mdluli.
In referring to Jiba and Mrwebi’s handling of the Mdluli matter, the judge said: “I cannot believe that two officers of the court who hold such high positions in the prosecuting authority will stoop so low for the protection and defence of one individual who had been implicated in serious offences.
“In fact, taking into account the kind of personality (referring to Mdluli) Mrwebi and Jiba had to deal with, they should have stood firm and vigorous on the ground by persisting to prosecute Mdluli on fraud and corruption charges.
“By their conduct, they did not only bring the prosecuting authority and the legal profession into disrepute, but also brought the good office of the President of the Republic of South Africa into disrepute by failing to prosecute Mdluli…”
While welcoming the judgment, Breytenbach said the fact that Jiba was still in office, without an inquiry, was proof of presidential protection. “If the president is serious about restoring the integrity of the NPA he must fire her or make her the subject of a probe that sees her discharged.”