Former deputy national director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
President Cyril Ramaphosa has fired top prosecutors Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi with immediate effect.
Ramaphosa wrote to the former deputy national director of public prosecutions and former head of the specialised commercial crime unit on Thursday informing them of his decision, saying he had accepted the recommendations of the Mokgoro inquiry that they should be removed. The panel was chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro.
In letters to the pair, Ramaphosa said — amongst the other serious transgressions found by the Mokgoro inquiry — both of them had lied.
“You lied to me,” Ramaphosa in his letter to Jiba.
He was referring to the finding of the Mokgoro panel that she told the president one thing and the inquiry something else. Mrwebi had also lied to the inquiry and in the criminal trial of Malala Geophrey Ledwaba, Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa further refused Mrwebi’s request to be allowed to retire and Jiba’s request that she be given another senior position in the public service, because of the seriousness of the findings.
Mokgoro’s panel found that Jiba had been inconsistent in her explanations for why an outside team — not one from the KwaZulu-Natal office — had been parachuted in to conduct the prosecution, saying one thing to the president and another to the Mokgoro inquiry.
Jiba had told Ramaphosa that she brought in an outside team because the acting head of the KZN office, Simphiwe Mlotshwa, had “pleaded” for this. But after Mlotshwa gave evidence before Mokgoro’s panel, she said she had done this because the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had asked for it.
“The inconsistencies in the reasons she gave for establishing a national prosecuting team indicates that she acted with favour and with prejudice to the NPA,” the report says.
Mokgoro’s panel further rejected Mrwebi’s explanation for why a consultative note — explaining why he had withdrawn charges against former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli — was dated December 4 2011 when Mrwebi claimed the correct date was December 5.
The date was significant because, in terms of the law, the decision to withdraw charges had to be taken in consultation with Gauteng prosecutions head Sibongile Mzinyathi. But the two had only met to discuss the charges on December 5.
Mokgoro’s panel said: “Mrwebi stated that the date on the consultative note was made in error. He offered two conflicting reasons for the error. The first was that it was a Sunday and he could not have possibly sent it on that day because he does not work on Sundays. The second was that the date must have been copied over with a previous letterhead by accident. The contradiction is self-evident. He cannot claim that he does not work on Sundays yet have a pre-existing letterhead with a date that falls on a Sunday. However, both explanations are untrue, as the 4 December 2011 date appears several times in the consultative note”.
On the Ledwaba trial — at which Mrwebi was the main witness against Malala Geophrey Ledwaba, who was accused of stealing from the Scorpions confidential fund — the appeal court had found that Mrwebi had lied under oath.
The Mokgoro panel’s report said, during the inquiry, Mrwebi questioned the accuracy of the transcript in the Ledwaba trial. The evidence leaders obtained a full transcript and “no evidence has been provided to the enquiry to prove that the transcripts were inaccurate”. As such “we find no reason to exclude the Ledwaba evidence,” the Mokgoro panel said.
“We therefore accept the court’s finding that Mrwebi lied under oath.”
Explaining why he would not give Jiba a senior position in the public service, Ramaphosa said: “Your request to be appointed to a senior position in the public service cannot be acceded to because of the findings of dishonesty and disregard for the courts that have been made against you in the enquiry report. These findings would preclude your appointment to such position as these are qualities that are required of all senior public servants”.