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

Suspended head of the specialised commercial crimes unit (SCCU) Lawrence Mrwebi will, on Wednesday, try convince the Mokgoro inquiry that he is is fit to hold office when he takes the stand to give his version of events.

At the heart of the inquiry into Mrwebi is his decision to withdraw criminal charges against former Crime Intelligence Division boss Richard Mdluli, as well as his subsequent actions in the Freedom Under Law litigation which  sought to review and set aside his decision.

Mrwebi and the deputy national director of public prosecutions (DNDPP) Nomgcobo Jiba, who is also suspended, will appear before retired Constitutional Court judge Yvonne Mokgoro, who is tasked with establishing whether the two are fit to hold office.

Mrwebi’s conduct in the matter was deemed to be serious enough to warrant being struck off from the roll of advocates by the High Court. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned this, but the bench was split with three judges finding that the High Court treated Mrwebi harshly, while two judges dissented.

The Constitutional Court will now be the final arbiter on the matter when it hears an application for leave to appeal the SCA judgment in March.

Mrwebi would, however, have to answer to more than just adverse judicial comments and findings against him, as the Mokgoro inquiry also hears new evidence. 

Deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomvula Mokhatla, who now heads the Asset Forfeiture Unit, testified before the commission last week about how she was kept in the dark when she was head of the legal affairs division. Part of her  job was to fulfil civil litigations on behalf of the NDPP or any other business unit in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

She said she was informed by Mrwebi that the matter against Mdluli was provisionally withdrawn and that advocate Glynnis Breytenbach, who was a regional head in the SCCU, was given two weeks to undertake further investigations and then revert.

Mokhatla said she did not even know about the letter sent to Mdluli’s attorneys to withdraw the charges, nor that the charges had already been dropped five months before.

Breytenbach had testified at the inquiry that she believed Mdluli had a prima facie case to answer for, but that Mrwebi had dropped the charges without making the necessary consultations and had declared the matter closed.

Freedom Under Law has argued that there is an even higher standard to which a senior state prosecutor has to adhere when they are fit and proper for the job.

According to the organisation, this standard of behaviour — in which integrity and competence is key — is what Mokgoro must keep in mind when she hears Mrwebi’s evidence. 

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