National

Fall from grace does not harm Jiba's climb in NPA

Nelly Shamase

SA's new acting prosecutions chief, Nomgcobo Jiba has risen to the highest echelons of the justice system, despite a chequered past within in the NPA.

South Africa’s new acting prosecutions chief has a chequered past—she was suspended from a senior position in the National Prosecuting Authority four years ago by its then-head, Mokotedi Mpshe.

Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba faced internal charges of unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, fraud and bringing the NPA into disrepute. The charges were based on her alleged involvement in a campaign against former Gauteng Scorpions boss Gerrie Nel aimed at thwarting the arrest of former police national commissioner Jackie Selebi.

But the disciplinary process was never finalised. A well-placed source said that Jiba’s suspension was reversed and the disciplinary action abandoned after she mounted a series of court challenges.

“She moved from one litigation to another while she stayed at home on her large salary. It was proving too costly for the NPA,” the source said.

The source also alleged that, as part of the settlement agreement, Jiba had agreed to pay the prosecuting authority’s court costs. The Mail & Guardian was unable to establish whether the costs had been paid.

Commenting on Jiba’s behalf, NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said this week: “When the NPA and advocate Jiba reached a settlement agreement on the Labour Court matter, both parties agreed to confidentiality of all the terms of the agreement. Hence we cannot disclose anything relating to such an agreement.”

Mhaga also refused to comment on whether Jiba had met the terms of the settlement in full, saying the law prevented it.

Jiba was appointed acting national director of public prosecutions on December 21 after having been appointed, and then promptly removed, as acting head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The M&G reported early last year that Mpshe suspended Jiba as senior director of public prosecutions in December 2007, following claims that she was involved in a conspiracy to have Nel arrested before he could charge Selebi with corruption.

In a Labour Court case brought by Jiba in 2008 to head off disciplinary action against her, it was alleged that Mpshe wrote to justice department director general Menzi Simelane in January 2008 that the NPA had evidence of Jiba’s active participation in securing a warrant of arrest for Nel.

Nel was arrested on January 8 2008 in connection with his alleged interference in the prosecution of former Gauteng Scorpions deputy director Cornwell Tshavhungwa. However, he was later released because of lack of evidence.

A former NPA colleague, advocate Vernon Nemaorani, stated in a Labour Court affidavit that Jiba blamed Nel for the investigation and conviction of her husband, a lawyer, on charges that he had dipped into the trust fund of a firm of attorneys.

Documents tabled in Jiba’s 2008 court application also provided details of the high-level backing she received after she was suspended. She complained to Simelane in a letter in January 2008 and he, in turn, wrote to Mpshe to question her suspension.

When Mpshe rebuffed Simelane, Jiba petitioned Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who undertook to raise the matter with the prosecuting authority’s management in June 2009.

Jiba received further backing from the then head of Gauteng crime intelligence, Richard Mdluli, who claimed in a court affidavit that the NPA was victimising her as part of a conspiracy to protect Nel.

As part of the settlement agreement with the NPA, Jiba was transferred to Pretoria’s Specialised Commercial Crime Court in 2009. Her latest promotion follows the placing of Simelane on special leave to allow Radebe to seek clarity on the Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling last month that Simelane’s 2008 appointment as the national director of public prosecutions was invalid.

Jiba took over from Judge Willem Heath as the acting head of the SIU in December, but she was replaced by advocate Nomvula Mokhatla, the deputy national director of public prosecutions, a week later.

This week, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said President Jacob Zuma had appointed Jiba because he believed she had suitable qualifications and experience. Asked whether she was likely to take over the role permanently, Maharaj said: “I wish anyone knew. It’s temporary until a permanent person is appointed — The appointment was made because Simelane was granted special leave at his request.”

In December, Maharaj said Jiba’s controversial past had played no part in the decision to replace her with Mokhatla at the helm of the SIU.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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