Nomgcobo Jiba pleads for independence of prosecutors
Suspended deputy national director tells Mokgoro inquiry the autonomy of state prosecutors must be strengthened
Nomgcobo Jiba, who is seen as one of the most divisive personalities in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), has pleaded with the Mokgoro inquiry to strengthen the independence of its prosecutors.
Jiba, the suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions, on Thursday gave oral evidence before the commission, answering to allegations levelled against her by current and former colleagues. These included comments made by her fellow deputy national director of public prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr.
Hofmeyr told the inquiry that a trend emerged under Jiba to prosecute those who were seen as obstacles to corruption. Jiba was seen as former president Jacob Zuma’s right-hand person in the NPA.
She is expected to be cross-examined on Monday at the commission established by President Cyril Ramaphosa to inquire into her fitness to hold office. Retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro is chairing the inquiry.
The allegations against Jiba deal in the main with prosecutorial decisions taken on sensitive political cases and her conduct in litigation that followed in the wake of those decisions.
Most prominently it deals with dropping the charges of fraud and corruption against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and instituting racketeering charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen.
Jiba was initially charged with fraud and perjury in relation to authorising the charges against Booysen, but these charges were later withdrawn. The NPA is yet to confirm officially if it has decided to decline to prosecute her on these charges again after a court set aside the withdrawal.
Jiba told the inquiry that she had “never felt so betrayed by my own institution in my entire life when I was paraded before a court as a criminal, merely for exercising a discretion”. She insisted that there was sufficient evidence to support the racketeering case against Booysen.
In her closing comments on Thursday, Jiba asked that regardless of the outcome of the inquiry, the panel should find a way to strengthen the independence of prosecutors as it was a key in discretion. She said she believed it should take the same format as that afforded to judges.
“Prosecutors would not survive if, when they have to make these decisions, they have to watch their backs,” Jiba said.
Her feelings about Hofmeyr and former senior state prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach who also gave evidence before the inquiry, were made clear in her opening statement.
She accused Breytenbach of openly trying to create a narrative that the NPA was failing under her leadership, while she accused Hofmeyr of manufacturing “dangerous and unjustified political theories in assessing what had gone wrong in the NPA”.
Her suspended colleague Lawrence Mrwebi was cross-examined by evidence leader Nazreen Bawa, after he gave his evidence in chief on Wednesday.
Bawa took Mrwebi, who dropped the charges against Mdluli, through the evidence which was used in charging Mdluli. She put it to Mrwebi that there was sufficient evidence in the docket to prove that Mdluli directly benefited from the purchase of two vehicles by Crime Intelligence. He said that he “absolutely” disagreed.
Asked to explain why Mrwebi withdrew the charges against both Mdluli and Col Hein Barnard, former head of procurement for crime intelligence who bought the vehicles and was clearly directly involved, Mrwebi said to say the transaction was made by Barnard “does not mean there is evidence against Barnard himself”.
He said there were complications with Barnard’s case and that the cases should be dealt with together.