Parliament wants to hear why axed NPA officials should get jobs back

19 July 2019 - 14:20 By LINDA ENSOR
Nomgcobo Jiba. File photo.
Nomgcobo Jiba. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images

Dismissed senior National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi will be given 10 working days to make representations to parliament on why they should be restored to their former positions.

The decision was taken on Friday by parliament’s two justice committees — the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services of the National Assembly, and the select committee on security and justice of the National Council of Provinces — prompted by the recognition that the country is full of “litigious” people, in the words of justice committee chair Bulelani Magwanishe.

The committees want to be meticulous about the process so that their ultimate decision is not challenged in court on procedural grounds. "We must err on the side of caution," Magwanishe said.

Parliament has previously been criticised by the courts for not following due process.

Jiba, who was the former deputy head of national prosecutions and acted as head of the NPA for a time, and Mrwebi, a former special director of public prosecutions in the specialised commercial crime unit, have both indicated that they will take the report of an inquiry into their fitness to hold office, as well as the decision of President Cyril Ramaphosa and parliament, on review if parliament decides to confirm Ramaphosa’s decision to fire them.

Jiba and Mrwebi, both of whom are seen as allies of former president Jacob Zuma, have fought vigorously against their dismissals, which came six months after their suspensions on full pay in October last year.

The removal of Jiba and Mwrebi from office is seen as key to the restoration of the integrity and credibility of the NPA as an institution central to the fight against crime and corruption. The appointment of Shamila Batohi as head of the NPA is another crucial pillar to this endeavour.

The portfolio committee will begin its deliberations on whether to confirm or reject Ramaphosa’s decision to dismiss Jiba and Mrwebi on August 20 after the parliamentary recess; and the select committee’s process will commence on August 21.

Members of the two committees have decided unanimously that Jiba’s and Mrwebi’s representations must be submitted separately to each committee, which will then sit separately as well for their deliberations and decision-making.

This is despite the advice of parliamentary legal adviser Siviwe Njikela that there is nothing in the constitution or the rules of parliament preventing the two committees sitting together to consider a matter, provided that they take their decisions separately according to the rules of their respective houses. Njikela also advised last week that parliament is under no legal obligation to ask Jiba and Mrwebi to appear before its committees.

In terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, parliament has to confirm or revoke the president’s decision to remove the national director of public prosecutions, the deputy national director, or a special director. Ramaphosa will have no choice but to send Jiba and Mrwebi back to the NPA if parliament resolves that they have to remain in office.

Ramaphosa decided in April that Jiba and Mrwebi should be removed from office on the basis of a report by retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro who presided over the inquiry into their fitness to hold office. The inquiry found that their actions had brought the NPA into disrepute.

The inquiry examined Jiba and Mrwebi’s 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.

The charges against Booysen were withdrawn by Batohi on the grounds that they were invalid. Booysen has claimed that he was charged with racketeering for blocking the business interests of Zuma’s son, Edward.

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