NEWS
11/07/2018 11:08 SAST | Updated 11/07/2018 11:42 SAST

Jiba And Mrwebi Are Back On The Roll Of Advocates... Here's Why They Were Struck From It In The First Place

It's worth remembering the very serious allegations against Lawrence Mrwebi and Nomgcobo Jiba.

Cornel van Heerden/Netwerk24
Nomgcobo Jiba (L).

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned a decision by the North Gauteng High Court to have advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi disbarred. Jiba is the deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions and Mrwebi was a special director of public prosecutions.

The application for the two advocates to be removed from the advocates' roll was brought by the General Council of the Bar, which argued that they were not "fit and proper" for their jobs.

The North Gauteng High Court concurred, and in September 2016, handed down a strongly worded judgment.

While three members of the SCA bench found that their conduct was not enough to remove them from the roll of advocates, they could still face disciplinary charges. It is worth remembering what they were accused of in the first place.

According to the Mail & Guardian, the case against Jiba and Mrwebi concerned the way they handled three high-profile politically charged cases:

First, there was the bungling of the case against former crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli. He was charged with the kidnapping, assault and murder of Oupa Ramogibe, with whom Mdluli's customary wife was in a relationship, according to News24. The murder happened in 1999.

Those charges were reinstated, and the case was postponed in May.

The second case is the so-called "spy tapes" matter, which ultimately resulted in the charges against former president Jacob Zuma being reinstated this year.

The third is the case of former head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal, Johan Booysen, and the accusation that he was running a "death squad" of police officers in Cato Crest. Booysen was appointed as an advisor to police minister Bheki Cele earlier this year.

The Bar felt that the advocates, especially Jiba, should be disbarred based on what happened in all three cases. Despite damning allegations against her in all three, and findings by various courts against her, the SCA ultimately did not think all of the allegations were enough to have her disbarred.

But when it came to the Mdluli case, the court took a different view.

Judge Francis Ledogi, who penned the judgment, was scathing. According to the Mail & Guardian, he wrote,

"I can't believe that [Jiba and Mrwebi] would stoop so low for the protection and defence of [Mdluli]."

And that the two advocates should have "stood firm and vigorous on the ground by persisting to prosecuting (Mdluli) on fraud and corruption charges".

He added, "This kind of behaviour diminishes the image of the country and its institutions, which are meant to be impartial and independent."

The two other complaints by the Bar ultimately did not lead to Jiba or Mwrebi being struck from the roll, but make for interesting reading nonetheless.

Two years prior, Jiba, who acted as the National Director of Public Prosecutions, was heavily criticised by the SCA for her handling of the so-called "spy tapes" saga. At the time, the NPA was refusing to hand over the spy tapes to the DA, which had asked for them so that it could bring an application to review the decision to drop the charges against Jacob Zuma.

The tapes contained conversations between former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy, and the NPA's former head Bulelani Ngcuka. The tapes supposedly showed the two discussing whether or not to charge Zuma before or after the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007.

The DA was ultimately successful, and Zuma now faces those charges, in spite of what the spy tapes revealed.

In the midst of this was Jiba, who, according to City Press, did not impress the court in her efforts to stop the spy tapes being handed over to the DA.

In that judgment, in which the SCA ordered the NPA to give the DA the tapes, the court tore a strip off the NPA — which had argued that it did not have a view as to whether the tapes should be handed over, as this was up to Zuma's lawyers.

The NPA argued that it was an impartial party, which the court found was an untenable position for it to take.

"In the present case, the then [acting] NDPP, Ms [Nomgcobo] Jiba, provided an 'opposing' affidavit in generalised, hearsay and almost meaningless terms. Affidavits from people who had first-hand knowledge of the relevant facts were conspicuously absent.

"Furthermore, it is to be decried that an important constitutional institution such as the office of the NDPP is loath to take an independent view about confidentiality, or otherwise, of documents and other materials within its possession, particularly in the face of an order of this court.

"Its lack of interest in being of assistance to either the high court or this court is baffling.

"This conduct is not worthy of the office of the NDPP. Such conduct undermines the esteem in which the office of the NDPP ought to be held by the citizenry of this country."

Then there was the matter of Booysen, who was accused of running a "death squad" along with other members of the Cato Crest Organised Crime Unit. Charges of racketeering were brought against Booysen by Jiba. These charges were later overturned in court, and Booysen claimed Jiba's pursuit of him was "mendacious".

However, the Legodi judgment says that while the SCA made no finding on whether or not Booysen should have been charged, it could not find any evidence that Jiba had malicious intent or ulterior motives when she charged Booysen.