Jiba and Mrwebi will not be returned to their former NPA posts
The justice committee found no compelling reasons to overturn the decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to remove the two
It is almost the end of the road for senior National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) staffers Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi.
On Tuesday, parliament’s justice committee overwhelmingly decided that the two should not be restored to their former positions. Jiba was a deputy national director of public prosecutions, the second in command at the NPA; Mrwebi headed the special directorate of public prosecutions.
The committee found no compelling reasons for them to be restored to office, a key requirement by the NPA Act if parliament is to overrule President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to fire them.
The committee will adopt a report on this on Wednesday and the matter will be voted on by the National Assembly on Tuesday next week, a few days before parliament rises for the end of year recess.
Jiba and Mrwebi were suspended in October 2018 and dismissed by Ramaphosa in April following the recommendations of a commission of inquiry into their fitness to hold office led by retired Constitutional Court judge Yvonne Mokgoro.
The committee also decided overwhelmingly that Mrwebi should not be given the opportunity to make oral representations on his fitness to hold office. This followed a plea by Mrwebi that he be allowed to appear in person before the committee with a legal representative to present his point of view. The plea was made in a letter to parliament at the end of November.
The majority of members of the justice committee believed that Mrwebi should not be given an opportunity to make an oral submission as he had already been given an opportunity to make a written submission and he would not present new arguments through an oral presentation.
However, EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi felt no harm would be done to allow him to appear and argued this would ensure that justice was seen to be done. Ndlozi said an oral submission was more significant than a written one.
The committee decided on the process it would follow and ultimately this included that written submissions would be requested within a given time period and that there would be no oral submissions.
Mrwebi made a written submission but raised new issues in his letter, which was submitted outside the deadline period. One of these was that Ramaphosa acted with bias and/or an ulterior motive in his decision to remove him.
Mrwebi said the Mokgoro inquiry was meant to be a fact-finding process but it turned out to be a disciplinary process — in fact, a “trial by ambush” — as he was not presented with any charges to which he should answer and the rules of natural justice were not adhered to.
DA MP Werner Horn said Mrwebi’s argument that he was the victim of political manoeuvring or political conspiracies had to be rejected.
Parliamentary legal advisor Siviwe Njikela pointed out that it was established parliamentary practice not to allow legal representatives to accompany people appearing before the committee.
Jiba has notified parliament that she has decided she does not want to be restored to her position. She has also withdrawn her application to the Western Cape high court to set aside Mokgoro’s inquiry into her fitness to hold office as well Ramaphosa’s decision to remove her.
Jiba was found, among other things, to have acted dishonestly; been influenced by external pressure; not demonstrated the necessary consciousness and independence required of her position; and to have brought the NPA into disrepute.