Why the stalemate in fixing the NPA has dragged on
Cyril Ramaphosa should act to restore proper leadership at key agency
The clean-up at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is hinging on decisive action by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has yet to appoint a national director to lead the institution and take further action against its deputy Nomgcobo Jiba.
In his maiden state of the nation address in February, Ramaphosa said he would deal with the NPA’s "leadership issues" to ensure it was "stabilised and able to perform its mandate unhindered".
The NPA is crucial for the functioning of the criminal justice system and needs to win back public confidence, with politically loaded cases pending, such as those linked to state capture and corruption.
However, it has been almost two months since Ramaphosa received reasons from Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, head of the specialised commercial crimes unit, on why they should not be suspended pending an inquiry into their fitness to hold office.
They remain at work while the president continues to consider their submissions.
Jiba and Mrwebi have long been mired in controversy in three politically loaded cases, one involving the former head of criminal intelligence Richard Mdluli, in which adverse comments were made about them in the judgments.
On August 13 the Constitutional Court also removed former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams from office and ordered Ramaphosa to appoint a new director within 90 days. This has not yet happened.
In the Abrahams matter, Ramaphosa waited for a final court ruling, rather than taking action himself.
On Thursday the high court in Pretoria postponed Jiba’s application for leave to appeal against a December 2017 judgment that ordered the president to suspend the Jiba and Mrwebi and institute inquiries into their fitness to hold office.
The court ordered the postponement as it awaits the outcome of a linked legal battle, in which the General Council of the Bar has applied for leave to appeal against a judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The ruling placed Jiba and Mrwebi back on the roll of advocates, after being struck from it by the high court. The council is now awaiting a decision from the Constitutional Court in that matter.
Jiba’s advocate, Norman Arendse, told the high court on Thursday it was unlikely the matter would be finalised by the Constitutional Court this year, but it had to say whether the two should remain on the roll of advocates before any other court could hear Jiba’s application for leave to appeal.
This was because some issues would be moot if the court ruled that they should be struck from the roll.
Advocate Max du Plessis, for Freedom Under Law, said that the only person who would benefit from a postponement is Jiba, the only party who has continued with the application for leave to appeal.
The NPA had dropped its appeal against the December judgment, which included the decision to review and set aside dropping perjury and fraud charges against Jiba, at the 11th hour on Wednesday.