There was a “very concerning” trend at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of prosecuting those viewed as “obstacles to corruption and the capture of the state,” deputy national director of public prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr said on Thursday.
Hofmeyr was testifying at the inquiry into the fitness for office of two of the National Prosecuting Authority’s most senior prosecutors: deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and special director and head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) Lawrence Mrwebi.
Chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, the inquiry was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in response to criticism the pair received in a number of court judgments in high profile and politically sensitive cases.
Hofmeyr said the trend — of prosecuting those who got in the way — “emerged under Jiba”.
He gave examples, including the prosecutions of former Hawks head Anwa Dramat, former Gauteng Hawks Head Shadrack Sibiya and Independent Police Investigative Directorate head Robert McBride, many of which did not make it to trial.
He said the first of these was the prosecution of KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen.
The authorisation by Jiba of a racketeering charge against Booysen is expected to be one of the central lines of questioning at the inquiry, with allegations that she authorised the prosecution, based on statements that had not, in fact, disclosed a case against him.
Booysen successfully went to court to set aside his prosecution. In his judgment, KwaZulu-Natal high court Judge Trevor Gorven said that when Booysen accused Jiba of “mendacity”, she responded with “deafening silence”.
Hofmeyr said Booysen had launched investigations into corruption in KwaZulu-Natal, including into senior ANC politicians MEC’s Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu.
“He had exposed significant corruption, and the AFU [asset forfeiture unit] worked very closely with the Hawks to seize assets in both these matters, so I became very familiar with the facts at the time”.
“I submit that the charges laid against Booysen was an attempt to remove him from office, or at least to ensure that [a] more pliable acting head would be appointed in his place,” Hofmeyr added.
At the start of the day, Jiba’s counsel, Norman Arendse SC, had addressed the panel, saying that Hofmeyr had made allegations in his affidavit against former national director Shaun Abrahams, which, if true were “very, very serious” and, if not true, were defamatory. He asked whether Abrahams had been informed by the evidence leaders of these allegations and whether he had been offered an opportunity to respond, adding that his team had been informed that he had not. After a break, Mokgoro directed that the evidence and cross-examination should go ahead, but that the evidence leaders should write to Abrahams and invite him to appear the inquiry.
By the lunch break, Hofmeyr was yet to be cross-examined by counsel for Jiba and Mrwebi.