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

Col Kobus Roelofse, a Hawks investigator tasked with investigating the fraud and corruption case against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, still faces the legacy of Lawrence Mrwebi’s decision to drop the charges against Mdluli.

Roelofse, who is currently working in the anti-corruption task team, told the commission of inquiry into the fitness of Mrwebi and Nomgcobo Jiba to hold office, that the former's decision in 2011 still affects his investigation in 2019.

Roelofse said there were people in the South African Police Service who still believed that he unlawfully obtained documents, as alleged by Mrwebi.

He said that hampered the process of getting documents declassified and that he was still struggling with convincing people that the matter must be on the roll.

Both Mrwebi, who headed the specialised crime unit, and Jiba, the deputy national director of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), are on suspension. Their suspension is part of President Cyril Ramaphosa's attempt to restore the integrity of the NPA, which has been tainted by years of corruption and political intervention.

Mrwebi withdrew charges of fraud, corruption and money-laundering against Mdluli in December 2011, after he initially said the police did not have the jurisdiction to investigate the matter. He said that responsibility lay with the inspector-general of intelligence.

Roelofse told the inquiry during cross-examination that Mrwebi's memo clearly stated that the police were not entitled to investigate the matter.

Roelofse said that Mrwebi was told it did not form part of the inspector-general of intelligence’s work. Mrwebi was then told that the auditor-general had investigated the matter and that it was closed. Roelofse said the only inference he could make was that the matter was closed.

He was adamant that the initial charges against Mdluli did not need any declassification of documents for the prosecution to continue.

The pair was initially struck from the roll of advocates for how they had dealt with the charges against Mdluli, but this was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2018. However, the matter is now before the Constitutional Court, which will hear the General Council of the Bar’s application for leave to appeal in March.

Mdluli was arrested and charged in the matter, in which it was alleged that he and Col Hein Barnard, who was head of procurement in the crime intelligence unit, unlawfully benefited from the acquisition of state vehicles.

Mrwebi now says he never meant to close the investigation. He says further investigation is needed before a decision is taken about whether or not the matter can be put on the roll again

The inquiry has heard evidence from various role-players who testified that Mrwebi did not have the power to withdraw the charges.

Advocate Rathaga Ramawele put it Roelofse during cross-examination that he did not have anything good to say about Mrwebi, to which Roelofse replied that he did “not know the man” and that it was not a question about saying anything good about Mrwebi or not.

He said Mrwebi may have done a lot of good in other cases, but  he was referring to how he dealt with Mdluli’s prosecution.