Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: SUPPLIED
Nomgcobo Jiba. Picture: SUPPLIED

Suspended deputy director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba says she could not have been able to protect Jacob Zuma from prosecution, despite allegations of a close relationship with the former president.

Jiba, who was seen to be Zuma’s right-hand aide in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), was under cross-examination at the inquiry into her and suspended colleague Lawrence Mrwebi’s fitness to hold office on Monday.

Her relationship with Zuma has also formed part of evidence in front of the commission of inquiry into state capture.

The NPA has largely been seen as  captured in the past decade and the inquiry, chaired by retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro, is part of President Cyril Ramaphosa's effort to restore its integrity.

Evidence leader Nazreen Bawa asked Jiba whether she should not have recused herself from all decisions relating to Zuma, as he had pardoned her husband just months before she was appointed as deputy NDPP .

Jiba's rise in the NPA was  viewed by some  colleagues as a meteoric feat, given that she jumped several ranks within the NPA when she was appointed to its leadership.

Zuma, in a presidential pardon in September 2010, erased former lawyer and Scorpion’s member Booker Nhantsi’s criminal record for stealing a client’s money from his trust fund.

Jiba was appointed deputy national director of public prosecutions in January 2011 and then as acting head of the NPA after Menzi Simelane’s appointment was declared irregular.

Jiba, in response to Bawa’s question said: “I don’t know where or why I would have recused myself”, given that by then the decision to withdraw the graft charges against Zuma had already been taken by former acting NDPP Mokotedi Mpshe.

“So my role there is not going to save the president as the decision was already made,” Jiba said.

She said fellow deputy NDPP Willie Hofmeyr gave strong arguments as to why the charges against Zuma should be dropped.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in 2017 upheld a high court judgment which declared Mpshe's decision to drop the charges irrational.

 In arguing why public perception should not influence prosecution, Jiba said that there “was a lot of noise” while she was on special leave about the so-called Gupta e-mails and that there was a perception that the NPA was not taking action. 

She said she was briefed by the acting special director when she came back from special leave on the matter and that there was not sufficient evidence to make a decision to prosecute at the time.

“That is why I say it's very important that we don’t succumbed to what the narrative is in the public,” Jiba said.