Lawrence Mrwebi, the suspended head of the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU), said he had no reason to favour or protect former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli when he decided to withdraw corruption charges against him.
Mrwebi was testifying on Wednesday before an inquiry into whether he and suspended deputy national director Nomgcobo Jiba are fit for their posts at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The Supreme Court of Appeal set aside Mrwebi’s decision to withdraw charges against Mdluli as unlawful, saying that it was meant to be taken “in consultation with” North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi and it was not.
The inquiry — chaired by retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro — has over the past three weeks heard allegations that Mrwebi and Jiba were protecting Mdluli, which would be a flagrant breach of their prosecutorial duties.
Mrwebi told the inquiry that he had never spoken to Mdluli in person, or on the phone, and only knew him from the newspapers. “When I make a decision, I don’t look at the type of person. I do my decision based on the facts and the law — whether you are Mdluli or anyone else. I have no reason to favour Mdluli,” he said.
Mrwebi said that before he made his decision, he had looked at docket in fraud and corruption case against Mdluli “from page to page”. The problem with the case was that there was no evidence directly implicating Mdluli or even that he had knowledge of the alleged criminal acts. He claimed he had said as much to Mzinyathi and Glynnis Breytenbach, the former head of the Pretoria office of the SCCU, when they met to discuss his decision on December 9 2011.
Mzinyathi and Breytenbach have both testified at length about this meeting, saying that Mrwebi’s preoccupation at the meeting was his view that the matter lay within the remit of the inspector general (IG) of intelligence. But Mrwebi said what he said was that it would be better for the IG to investigate because the IG would be able to access documents necessary to prove the case, but which had been classified secret under intelligence laws.
He told the enquiry that it was not that he wanted the IG to do a criminal investigation, he knew that was outside the remit of that office. But that the IG’s office did have investigative powers and would not be hampered by the classification of documents.
Mrwebi also insisted that he had not intended the withdrawal of the Mdluli case from the roll to be the end of the matter and that when new information was uncovered it could have been re-enrolled.
He also answered the accusation that he had made his decision to withdraw the charges before he had spoken to Mzinyathi — not allowed under the NPA Act which requires that the decision be made “in consultation with” each other. Earlier witnesses had inferred that the decision was made prematurely because the letter from Mrwebi conveying the decision was dated a day before he and Mzinyathi had met to discuss it.
On Wednesday, Mrwebi said he had used an earlier letter as a template as he still did not have a letterhead and the date was, in error, not amended.
He said that it had been five years since he had anything to do with the prosecution of Mdluli matter and he was yet to be prosecuted. He had submitted his last report on the Mdluli case in July 2014 to former national director Mxolisi Nxasana who took him off the case. He said his final report was a consolidation of the reports of “about eight prosecutors who have been dealing with this matter from 2012” and who all came to the conclusion that the case was not ready for court.
Mrwebi’s evidence continues.