Deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) specialised commercial commercial crimes head Lawrence Mrwebi have been struck off the roll of advocates.
Judges Francis Legodi and Wendy Hughes yesterday, in a strongly worded judgment, granted the order to the General Council of the Bar of South Africa to the names of the two top officials off the roll for their handling of former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli’s case.
The judges, however, dismissed the application to strike off North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi.
“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.
‘It is this kind of behaviour that diminishes the image of our country and its institutions, which are meant to be impartial, independent and transparent.’
“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 and the legal profession into disrepute, but have also brought into disrepute the good office of the president of the Republic of South Africa by failing to prosecute Mdluli, who inappropriately suggested that he was capable of assisting the president of the country to win the party presidential election in Mangaung during 2011, should the charges be dropped against him.
“It is this kind of behaviour that diminishes the image of our country and its institutions, which are meant to be impartial, independent and transparent in the exercise of their legislative public powers.
“… Mzinyathi, (Glynnis) Breytenbach and other prosecuting officials who were involved in the investigation of charges against and prosecution of Mdluli were like foot soldiers in a war-zoned area, crying loud for the freedom and space to declare war and to fight against serious crimes that are crippling our country and threatening investment.
“Jiba, on the other hand, was like a commander-in-chief and, in charge, required to lead by example. But instead, she flouted every rule in the fight against crime.
“Her failure to intervene when she was required to do so has failed the citizens of this country and, in the process, brought the image of the legal profession and prosecuting authority into disrepute.
“Both Mrwebi and Jiba should be found to have ceased to be fit and proper persons to remain on the roll of advocates,” Judge Legodi said.
The council’s application was based on judgments in Freedom Under Law’s successful challenge to the NPA decision to drop charges of murder, kidnapping, fraud and corruption against Mdluli, a ruling setting aside attempts to prosecute head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal Johan Booysen and a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in the so-called spy tape saga, which was used as excuse to drop corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.
Jiba and Mrwebi were harshly criticised in the judgments for not playing open cards with the court. Jiba was, among other things, criticised for ignoring the advice of two senior advocates regarding the confidentiality of the so-called spy tapes.
Mrwebi, among other things, came under fire for saying he had taken the decision not to prosecute Mdluli in consultation with North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi, while they never properly consulted and he made the decision on his own.