/ 21 January 2019

Jiba never received a bribe, Mokgoro inquiry hears

Suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba.
Suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba did not receive any bribe, her counsel said on Monday.

Thabani Masuku SC, representing the embattled deputy NDPP, was responding to a Sunday Times report on the weekend which claimed former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi would testify at the Zondo commission that Jiba and special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi received bribes of R100 000 and R10 000 respectively per month from Bosasa.

Jiba and Mrwebi have both denied the claims.

Masuku was speaking at an inquiry, chaired by retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro, into whether Jiba and Mrwebi are fit for office. The inquiry — under the National Prosecuting Authority Act — was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in August last year.

Masuku said there was “nothing more prejudicial” to Jiba than the timing of these media allegations, coming a day before the inquiry was set to begin. He said Jiba was yet to see the affidavit making the bribery claims, and therefore was not able to respond in detail.

What she could say at this point, Masuku said, was that she had never received a bribe and had performed her duties diligently. Jiba was “very keen” to deal with the allegations before the forum they are made, he said.

He added that Mokgoro’s inquiry could not close its eyes to the allegations if they were made before Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, but for now they were only media allegations. He asked that the allegations not be allowed to taint the fairness of the inquiry. His submissions were seconded by Mrwebi’s counsel.

Nazreen Bawa SC, evidence leader at the inquiry, said her team had formally requested a copy of the affidavit submitted before the Zondo commission, which implicated Jiba and Mrwebi. Until it has been received and the evidence leaders had consulted with all the parties, the evidence before the Mokgoro inquiry was as it had been before the weekend reports, Bawa said.

Up until the bombshell weekend news report, the complaints against Jiba and Mrwebi were based on a number scathing rebukes in various judgments on how they performed their functions.

When he announced the inquiry, Ramaphosa said the “allegations made in … various judgments have been in the public domain many years now”.

The rebukes against Jiba and Mrwebi came from high court judges and justices of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in several high-profile and politically sensitive cases.

These were the prosecution of former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen, the litigation over the dropping of charges against former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli and the marathon battle over the “spy tapes” — the recordings of phone conversations that were used to drop corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma.

Johannesburg high court Judge John Murphy said their conduct in the Mdluli application was “unbecoming of persons of such high rank in the public service”. In the Booysen decision, KwaZulu-Natal high court Judge Trevor Gorven said Jiba had responded to an accusation of mendacity with “deafening silence”. SCA Justice Mahomed Navsa said Jiba’s conduct in the spy tapes litigation was “not worthy of the office of NDPP [national director of public prosecutions]”.

Ramaphosa said these pronouncements had “negatively tainted the image of the NPA and will continue to do so until fully ventilated and addressed”.

“I cannot underscore the importance of the public’s trust in the NPA and its most senior management … Doubt about the fitness and integrity of anyone in so senior a position as you hold jeopardises this trust and the ability of the NPA as a whole,” said Ramaphosa in letters to Jiba and Mrwebi, asking them why he should not establish the inquiry.

The two were suspended pending the inquiry. Under the NPA Act, the four deputies to the national director and special directors are appointed by the president but the president may not remove them. There must be an inquiry into their fitness for office and ultimately it will be for Parliament to decide. The idea is to ensure a measure of independence for the NPA’s top decision-makers.

Prior to their suspension, they had taken special leave after the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) — a national advocate’s body — sought to have them struck from the roll of advocates. The GCB won its case in the high court but this was set aside by a majority decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal. The GCB then turned to the Constitutional Court, which is yet to hear the appeal.