NPA on edge as Jiba battles loom

When national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams dropped the perjury and fraud charges brought against deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba by his ousted predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, he knew he was courting controversy.

Abrahams was aware that the General Council of the Bar of South Africa was forging ahead with its court case to strike Jiba off the advocate’s roll or, alternatively, to bar her from practising as an advocate. Instead in August he quietly promoted Jiba to one of the most powerful positions at the National Prosecuting Authority.

Jiba is heading the National Prose­cu­tion Service, which was expanded under her watch to incorporate the specialist prosecution units, including the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit and the Priority Crime Litigation Unit. Yet Jiba will soon find herself fighting for her career in two separate court cases.

Last month the Democratic Alliance launched fresh court proceedings to set aside President Jacob Zuma’s decision not to suspend Jiba. The party is seeking to have her suspended, pending an inquiry into her fitness for office.

And, in three weeks, a meeting will be held to decide a date for the matter brought by the Bar Council against her and two others, to be heard in the high court in Pretoria next year. Not only does the council have Jiba in its sights, it also wants the head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit, Lawrence Mrwebi, and the North Gauteng director of public prosecutions, Sibongile Mzinyathi, struck off the advocate’s roll or barred from practising as advocates. The three senior NPA figures have opposed the claims brought against them.

In court papers, Jiba maintains that, to strike her name from the roll of advocates, the council has first to make a finding that she is not a fit and proper person to continue to practise as an advocate.

In his replying affidavit, the council’s chairperson, Jeremy Muller, says there is no requirement in section 7(2) of the Admission of Advocates Act for a disciplinary inquiry to precede an application like this, especially as Jiba was not a member of the General Council of the Bar, or one of its constituent Bars.

Muller claims Jiba’s suggestion that the application is based on hearsay is incorrect and is denied.

“The first respondent’s suggestion that the application is ‘mischievous and … designed to embarrass me’ is unfortunate and unfounded,” he says.

The council has weighed in on three cases Jiba dealt with when she was the acting national director of public prosecutions:

  • The Freedom Under Law challenge to the NPA decision to drop charges of murder and kidnapping, and fraud and corruption against suspended crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli. Among the many issues raised by the council is that Jiba ignored a 2010 memorandum from then senior director of public prosecutions, advocate Glynnis Breytenbach and advocate Jan Ferreira, which contended that Mrwebi’s decision to withdraw the Mdluli cases was “erroneous and in law illegal”. Jiba states in her answering affidavit she had placed reliance on memos supplied to her by two other advocates, and had not considered the memo from a person (Breytenbach) “not considered relevant”.
  • The attempts to prosecute the head of the KwaZulu-Natal Hawks, Johan Booysen. Jiba’s actions in this case were condemned by Judge Trevor Gorven, who granted Booysen’s application to have the charges set aside in the high court in Durban. This led to Nxasana laying fraud and perjury charges against Jiba. In his replying affidavit, Muller says Jiba “failed to engage” with the criticisms by the judge. “It will be submitted that the first respondent’s [Jiba] version is false to the extent that she professes to believe that there was and is still a strong case against Booysen, based on the evidence that is contained in the docket,” Muller contends.
  • Jiba and the DA spy tapes case. During the DA application to get access to the spy tapes, which led to the withdrawal of more than 700 corruption charges against Zuma, Jiba was given a dressing-down in a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling. It described her opposing affidavit as “generalised, hearsay and almost meaningless terms”. In his replying affidavit, Muller claims Jiba had not engaged properly with the serious criticism expressed by the SCA, and had shown no interest in being of assistance to the court in this case. “For the rest, she simply repeats the facts which gave rise to these criticisms, and suggests that it resulted from a ‘cautious approach’ adopted by her,” says Muller.

Jiba could not be reached for comment.

As the legal battles loom large, staff at the embattled NPA are left wondering whether another power struggle for control has started.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Unlawful payments and a solid state witness could sink Ace Magashule

Magashule’s personal assistant is working with prosecutors to reveal how the R255-million cash was moved

João Rodrigues, apartheid-era crimes and the question of a blanket amnesty

The former Security Branch officer is asking the SCA for a permanent stay of appeal in the prosecution of the murder of Ahmed Timol in 1971

eThekwini municipal manager out on bail, but signing off tenders

The NPA is investigating eThekwini municipal manager Sipho Nzuza to determine whether he broke his bail conditions while back at work.

Durban city manager says NPA erred in his bail conditions

The corruption-fraught metro is coming to grips with having a municipal manager who is on bail for graft, yet has returned to work

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Marikana murder trial resumes

The eight-year battle for justice played out its next round in the Mahikeng high court this week

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…