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Parliament decisions on Jiba, Mrwebi put on hold

21 August 2019 - 19:52 By ANDISIWE MAKINANA
Parliament agreed to halt a process meant to consider Nomgcobo Jiba's (above) dismissal, and that of Lawrence Mrwebi from their positions.
Parliament agreed to halt a process meant to consider Nomgcobo Jiba's (above) dismissal, and that of Lawrence Mrwebi from their positions.
Image: Gallo Images

Sacked deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba won a small but significant victory in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday when parliament bowed to pressure and agreed to halt a process meant to consider her dismissal and that of Lawrence Mrwebi from their positions.

The National Prosecuting Authority Act requires parliament to pass a resolution “within 30 days or as soon thereafter as is reasonably possible” as to whether a dismissed national director of public prosecutions or deputy national director of public prosecutions should be reinstated.

But Jiba is challenging President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to fire her, especially while the parliamentary process has not been finalised. She also wants the court to set aside the findings of the Mokgoro commission on whose recommendation Ramaphosa fired her. She is also challenging the termination of her salary and associated employment benefits, saying this was in violation of the Constitution and unlawful and wants to be reinstated to her position.

On Monday, she filed an application for an urgent interdict to stay the parliamentary process, pending the finalisation of a review application against Ramaphosa and the Mokgoro Commission of Inquiry. The matter was set to be heard on Wednesday but parties reached an agreement — which became an order of the court — in the judges' chambers agreeing to suspend the parliamentary process until September 19, when the court is set to hear Part A of Jiba’s review application.

“Parliament’s agreement to the draft order is motivated by its endeavour to uphold fairness, impartiality and the rule of law in processing this matter,” said parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo in a statement on Wednesday evening.

“The draft agreement, which is to be made an order of court, demonstrates Parliament’s endeavour to ensure fairness and at the same time to uphold its statutory obligations,” he added.

“They were forced to eat humble pie,” said Jiba's lawyer Zola Majavu when contacted by TimesLIVE.

Majavu said they had asked Parliament to “please stop” its process because there was a review pending. “They then said no, they are not going to stop because they are an independent arm of government. They will go ahead,” he added.

Majavu revealed that in trying to convince the legislature to halt its proceedings, they had to pull [argue] recent court rulings where the courts agreed that Ramaphosa could not implement public protector remedial action in a matter involving public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan because Gordhan was taking the public protector's report on a judicial review.

“It remains our considered view, that such a request was not only reasonable, but also legally sound and precedented and expected no opposition or difficulty with that from Parliament’s perspective.

“Our view was further fortified by the fact that Parliament’s own rules, in particular Rule 89 does provide that 'when matters are sub judice' no members may reflect thereon,” said Majavu.

He said Parliament, or at the very least the justice portfolio committee to which the NPA accounts, took the view that they would proceed with their intended schedule unless they “are interdicted by a court of law”.

He said that was the background against which they had to approach the high court on an urgent basis.

Ramaphosa fired Jiba and Mrwebi in April at the recommendation of a commission chaired by retired Constitutional Court judge Yvonne Mokgoro after an inquiry into whether they were fit to hold office.