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

Parliament is under no legal obligation to ask controversial former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to appear before it as it deliberates on whether they should return to office, parliamentary legal adviser Siviwe Njikela said  on Wednesday. 

The committees, however, do have the power to summon people to appear before them to provide whatever information or documents they may need for clarity.  

The legal opinion was given to a joint meeting of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services and the select committee on security and justice, which is looking into the  Jiba and Mrwebi matter.

President Cyril Ramaphosa fired the pair in April on the recommendations of an inquiry, established in terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, into their fitness to hold office. 

The two were key allies of former president Jacob Zuma and their removal from the NPA was seen as an attempt to restore credibility and integrity to the authority, which has been embroiled in controversy for years. 

In terms of the law, parliament must act within 30 days after receipt of all documentation related to the president’s decision to remove either the national director of public prosecutions or the deputy national director of public prosecutions, or pass a resolution on whether or not they should be restored to their positions.

Before Ramaphosa axed them, the inquiry, chaired by former Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro,  heard six weeks of evidence earlier in 2019. Both Jiba and Mrwebi were legally represented, gave oral evidence and were cross-examined. They then gave written representations to the president on why they should not be fired.

Njikela said the view was that the jurisdiction of the committees on the matter was “limited”, and that the act  empowered them to decide only on whether to restore the officials to their positions. 

“In doing so, it is not envisaged that the committee reopens the inquiry,” the written legal opinion states. 

The inquiry looked at, among others, Jiba and Mrwebi’s actions regarding politically sensitive prosecutorial decisions, such as dropping charges against known Zuma-ally and former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, and instituting racketeering charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen.

On Tuesday the NPA announced that its national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, had decided to withdraw racketeering charges against Booysen and his co-accused

The parliamentary committees had asked for the legal advice in terms of the process to be followed, as there was no standard procedure for the committee to follow in this matter.