Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: SOWETAN
Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: SOWETAN

The final battle over whether suspended National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi should be struck from the roll of advocates has been set down to be heard by the Constitutional Court in 2019.

The matter is set down for March 14. 

In July, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned a high court decision that struck Jiba, the suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions, and Mrwebi, the suspended special director of public prosecutions and head of the specialised commercial crimes unit, from the roll of advocates.

Both Jiba and Mrwebi were reinstated following the SCA ruling, but they were subsequently suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa in October, pending inquiries into their fitness to hold office.  

In a last-ditch effort, the General Council of the Bar (GCB) lodged an application for leave to appeal against the SCA judgment in July, saying it believed that “there were reasonable prospects of success”.

Lawrence Mrwebi. Picture: SOWETAN
Lawrence Mrwebi. Picture: SOWETAN

The GCB had originally applied to have Jiba, Mrwebi and advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi struck from the roll based on how they had dealt with three politically loaded cases. It was the decision to drop criminal charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli that finally got Jiba and Mrwebi struck from the roll.

The GCB also wanted the court to answer the question on the standard of conduct of advocates, and what form of misconduct would be sufficient to justify the removal of an advocate from the roll.

The division on the SCA bench over whether the pair should be struck from the roll was cited by the GCB as one of the reasons the Constitutional Court should hear and decide on the matter. 

The majority judgment in the SCA — which placed them back on the roll — was written by judge Jeremiah Shongwe, with judges Willie Seriti and Baratang Constance Mocumie concurring. Judges Eric Leach and Christiaan van der Merwe dissented.

Van der Merwe’s minority judgment made it clear that they believed the pair’s appeal should have been dismissed and that they should have remained off the roll of advocates. 

Jiba had said in her answering papers to the apex court that it was not in the interest of justice for the Constitutional Court to grant the GCB appeal. 

She said the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the appeal, and it did not raise any arguable point of law and the dispute was about interpretation of the facts. 

The GCB has until December 14 to file a record, while it has to lodge its written arguments by or before January 14.

The respondents have until January 28 to file their arguments.