Deputy director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
Deputy director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

A senior prosecutor tasked to lead investigations and prosecute foreign bribery cases was given 24 hours to hand over all his cases to the serious crimes litigation unit, which was under control of special director Lawrence Mrwebi.

“They axed me like you cut off cancer on your finger,” advocate Chris Macadam, special deputy director in the priority crimes litigation unit, told the inquiry  looking into the fitness of Mrwebi and deputy national director Nomgcobo Jiba to hold office. Both senior officials are suspended.

The inquiry into the pair is part of an attempt to restore the integrity of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that has greatly been diminished for  more than a decade as allegations of factionalism, political interference and corruption hampered it from carrying out its core mandate.

He said the cases he was tasked to investigate and prosecute as a dedicated foreign bribery prosecutor, were removed without much ado.

Among these cases was the alleged bribing of a PetroSA official, as well as the alleged bribing of SA government officials by UK entities.

Macadam was crucial in the investigations  that would make it onto the radar of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),  an intergovernmental initiative to stimulate economic growth.

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

The OECD adopted a convention in 1997 given the impact of corruption on economic growth, aimed at the bribery of foreign government officials in order to obtain international business contracts. SA ratified the convention in 2007.

Macadam was appointed to the specialist position by former prosecutions boss Mxolisi Nxasana to guide foreign bribery cases investigated by the anticorruption task team. In 2015, after Shaun Abrahams was appointed to the top prosecutor post, Macadam said Abrahams assured him that he would stay in the post.

It was however in October 2015 that advocate Andrea Johnson, former acting head of the priority crimes litigation unit,  ordered him to hand over his cases to the serious crimes litigation unit within 24 hours. The priority crimes litigation unit reported to Jiba.

Thabani Musuku, counsel for Jiba, said she did meet Abrahams before she met Johnson over his removal from the cases.

Macadam said he was made aware of a report  that Mrwebi compiled and was based on one he (Macadam) had done earlier and was signed off in his name shortly  before an OECD event in Paris in December 2015. He  objected to this, as he was not consulted on the report, but eventually agreed to present an oral report to the OECD.

Macadam said a preliminary analysis by the OECDthat was done following a report done by SA in March 2016, almost half a year since he  handed over the cases, raised serious concern about a lack of active enforcement and limited progress.

The analysis, Macadam said, indicated only 11 investigations were being conducted out of 17 allegations, and that few investigative tools were being used.

“We were back to square one. When we started in 2014 there was no proper enforcement and now we were exactly in the same boat looking at the criticism of the OECD,” Macadam said.