Mrwebi claims NPA victimisation in case to strike him off the roll
HEAD of the specialised commercial crimes unit Lawrence Mrwebi has defended himself against allegations that he is not fit and proper for his job, saying that he is being victimised and that the scathing criticism of his conduct by two courts is unjustified.
In court papers he claimed the application by the General Council of the Bar to have him removed from the roll of advocates was part of his victimisation by "elements" in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The media has been rife with reports of NPA infighting. However, the bar council was careful in its founding affidavit to separate its application, which was based largely on court records and judgments, from media reports.
The bar council has applied for Mr Mrwebi, deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi to be struck off the roll. Its application is largely based on sharp criticism in court judgments over the way Ms Jiba, Mr Mrwebi and Mr Mzinyathi conducted themselves in litigation between the NPA and activist body Freedom Under Law over the decision to drop fraud, corruption and murder charges against suspended crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.
In a judgment granting Freedom Under Law’s application to set aside the decision, Judge John Murphy said Mr Mrwebi did not disclose "obviously relevant documents" to the court.
But Mr Mrwebi said in his answering affidavit, which was filed in court on Thursday, that the court case was dealt with by the prosecuting authority’s legal affairs division.
"Although I was the third respondent in the FUL (Freedom Under Law) application, I played no role in the litigation process except where I was required to attend consultations," he said.
He had attended only two consultations with the NPA’s legal teams and was "unaware" that Freedom Under Law had gone to court for an order to compel the NPA to provide more documents, he said.
The bar council also accused Mr Mrwebi of deliberately misleading the court over the extent to which he had consulted with Mr Mzinyathi over the decision to withdraw the charges against Mr Mdluli, and whether they had agreed on his decision.
In terms of the NPA Act, in instances when Mr Mrwebi’s and Mr Mzinyathi’s functions or powers overlap, Mr Mrwebi’s functions must be exercised "in consultation" with Mr Mzinyathi.
The bar council quoted Judge Murphy’s judgment: "Mrwebi’s averment in the answering affidavit that he consulted and reached agreement with Mzinyathi before taking the decision is ... untenable and incredible to a degree that it too falls to be rejected."
This criticism was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
But Mr Mrwebi said he never actually said that he had reached an agreement with Mr Mzinyathi, only that he had consulted with him.
Mr Mrwebi said he had understood that the legal requirement of acting "in consultation with" meant only that he should "speak to" Mr Mzinyathi.
Mr Mrwebi said some of the bar council’s conclusions were reached on the basis of unjustified inferences and "hearsay" evidence.
"The conclusion is, most regrettably, inescapable that indeed this application is another facet of the victimisation process that is being waged against me by some elements within the NPA."