The mystery of Agent SA71, Jiba and Mdluli on a flight to Durban

The embattled deputy head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Nomgcobo Jiba, was not crime intelligence “Agent SA71”. This is according to testimony by police Colonel Kobus Roelofse at the Mokgoro inquiry last Friday.

But there was evidence that a Nomgobo Jiba did travel to Durban on the same plane as Richard Mdluli in September 2010 and her ticket was paid for from crime intelligence’s secret service account, Roelofse said.

He was one of the police officers assigned to investigate corruption allegations against Mdluli, the former head of the police’s crime intelligence unit. The inquiry was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa to look into whether Jiba is fit for office after she was criticised in several court judgments. It is being chaired by Yvonne Mokgoro, a retired Constitutional Court judge.

Jiba has long been alleged to have been “close to” Mdluli, and an allegation that has dominated the inquiry is that corruption charges against Mdluli were dropped to protect him.

But, in cross-examination, Jiba’s attorney, Zola Majuvu, was adamant that she “had nothing to do with travels under the auspices of crime intelligence” and was not on the flight that day.

The possibility that Jiba was a secret agent and the plane trip to Durban were reported last year by the Sunday Times, which quoted documents saying Jiba was “Agent SA71”. In his book, The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and Out of Prison, Jacques Pauw quoted from a note from Lieutenant Colonel Piet Viljoen (the other police officer assigned to investigate Mdluli) to Roelofse.

“The invoice number 155 allocated to this transaction also refers as payment to SA71, which is an agent number, which means that N Jiba is a registered agent.”

But Roelofse said in his affidavit before Mokgoro’s panel: “I know the identity of that agent and can confirm that that agent is not Nomgcobo Jiba.” He later said he was “certain” it was not her. Instead, Agent SA71 was a name used to disguise who was actually travelling.

READ MORE: The struggle to find a smoking gun

“It is therefore clear that the identity of the actual passenger was deliberately misrepresented in order to secure payment from the SSA [State Security Agency].”

He also said that an SSA witness, Lieutenant Colonel Dhanajaya Naidoo, had said that he “was aware that Jiba from the NPA flew with Mdluli to Durban to see someone from the ANC”. According to the passenger manifest he obtained from SAA, the two did not sit together — Mdluli was in business class and Jiba was in economy.

But Roelofse was careful to say he could not say categorically that the Jiba who travelled with Mdluli was the NPA’s Jiba. Although identity documents are checked when planes are boarded, it is only the name and not the ID number that is checked.

In cross-examination, Majavu handed up Jiba’s Voyager card, which had a different number to the one Roelofse had obtained. He repeated that the first name was not spelled properly and said the documents Roelofse had relied on referred to Jiba as a “Mr”.

Roelofse said there were only two Nomgcobo Jibas on the population register and no Nomgobos. Neither of the two were male, he said. With all the information taken together, he “reasonably concluded it was … Jiba on the flight”, he said.

But Majavu said Jiba was “highly upset and angered by that unsubstantiated allegation, which is highly defamatory”.

Roelofse told the inquiry that the evidence of the plane trip came up when he was investigating misuse of the SSA by Mdluli. He informed the NPA of what he had uncovered and, because of his workload, handed the investigation to another police officer.

When he inquired about it last year, he said he was told the “inquiry had gone missing together with the affidavit that I had provided together with the supporting documentation”.

This article was amended to reflect that Jiba was on a flight to Durban and not Cape Town as previously stated in paragraph two.

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Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

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