Richard Mdluli. Pictue: SOWETAN
Richard Mdluli. Pictue: SOWETAN

Suspended public prosecutions special director Lawrence Mrwebi  did not mean to have the investigation into former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli quashed, his legal counsel said on Tuesday.  

The prosecution of Mdluli is one of the main issues raised at the inquiry into the fitness to hold office of Mrwebi and Nomgcobo Jiba, suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions. 

Mrwebi took the decision to withdraw charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering in 2011 while Jiba was acting  prosecutions boss. The decision to drop the charges was seen largely as politically motivated as the prosecutors in the case believed Mdluli had a case to answer.

Mdluli and the two suspended senior  National Prosecutions Authority officials were alleged to be close allies of Jacob Zuma when he was president. 

This decision to drop the charges was reviewed and set aside by the courts, but  Mdluli has  still not faced the justice system.

Mrwebi’s counsel, Mervyn Rip, said at the inquiry, chaired by retired justice Yvonne Mokgoro, that his client never intended to have the case dropped. Nor did he want the inspector-general of intelligence to take over the investigation from the police.

Rip said Mrwebi meant the  inspector-general to merely look at the paper trail in the classified documents. It was “never the intention” for them to take over the investigation from the police.

Mrwebi’s version stands in stark contrast to the actual words used in correspondence on the matter and a handwritten note presented as evidence to the commission.

 In the note, Mrwebi states that the main issue in Mdluli’s prosecution was that the police did not have a mandate in the matter.

He also wrote in a letter to the inspector-general  and former senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach that the NPA had taken a “principled and considered” decision, that the decision stood and that the matter was “closed”.

Rip asked Breytenbach, who gave evidence on Tuesday, on her interpretation of the letter. She said she understood that as the matter was closed it would not be re-enrolled.

Rip said it was his instruction that it was not Mrwebi’s intention to say the investigation and the matter were closed, but that it was rather the debate on the matter  that was closed.

Rip put this version to Breytenbach on Tuesday, who wrote a memo with  advocate Jan Ferreira, arguing that there was a prima facie case against Mdluli. Ferreira was the prosecutor in the Mdluli case.

 Breytenbach  told Rip that no reasonable person could read it that way.

“I can unfortunately not read advocate Mrwebi’s mind. I can only read what he puts on paper and that is not what he said,” Breytenbach said.

Breytenbach said that she and North Gauteng public prosecutions director Sibongile Mzinyathi went to Mrwebi’s office to put up a fight over dropping the charges against Mdluli, but that they were caught offside when Mrwebi told them he had already informed the defence of the decision.

She said they decided to let the prosecutor withdraw the matter provisionally while they tried to resolve the impasse over the inspector-general of intelligence with Mrwebi.

Breytenbach said Mrwebi did not have the power to take the decision, as the specialised commercial crimes unit in Pretoria reported to Mzinyathi.

 Breytenbach  said in her written affidavit that the pair did not have any regard for the constitutional duty of any NPA officials.  She was unambiguous about how little she thought of the suspended officials’ work, saying  Jiba contributed “handsomely to the mess the NPA is now in”.

Mzinyathi will give evidence on Wednesday.