Jiba and Mrwebi get nod to appeal their disbarment
DEPUTY National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and Specialised Commercial Crime Unit head Lawrence Mrwebi were given a lifeline yesterday when they received the go-ahead to appeal against being axed as advocates.
The pair can thank Pretoria High Court Judge Wendy Hughes for this, as she found the matter was in the public interest and that the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) should take another look at the issues.
Judge Hughes said both Jiba and Mrwebi said they had, at all times, acted in good faith and were merely exercising their duties under the auspices of the National Prosecuting Authority Act when they took several high-profile decisions.
This included the decision to drop fraud and corruption charges against suspended crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.
But Judge Francis Legodi, who, together with Judge Hughes, ordered that the pair be struck off the roll in September, yesterday stuck to his guns and said the pair were not fit and proper persons to serve the advocates profession.
“I am not convinced that there are compelling reasons to justify the granting of leave to appeal… I also do not think that there are reasonable prospects of success on the factual findings made regarding the complaints levelled against the applicants and the severity of the proven facts,” Judge Legodi said.
He added that he would have refused leave to appeal if it was not for the conflicting judgment by Judge Hughes.
While he made it clear that he did not agree with her judgment, the judge said he was compelled to grant leave to appeal under these circumstances.
Judge Legodi wrote a scathing judgment against the pair in September following an application by the General Council of the Bar to have them disbarred.
The judge said he couldn’t believe that two officers of the court who held top positions in the NPA could “stoop so low” to protect one individual (Mdluli).
He added that they did not only bring the prosecuting authority and the legal profession into disrepute, but they also brought the office of the president into disrepute by failing to prosecute Mdluli.
In asking for leave to appeal, Jiba and Mrwebi said they were only doing their jobs as public servants.
They pointed out that they were not advocates in private practice and said they felt that they were dealt with in an unreasonably harsh manner and that there were other options available, including suspending them for a while.
Judge Legodi, in his judgment yesterday, said the decision to strike their names off the roll of advocates was mainly based on their handling of the Mdluli case, and they were found not to have acted in good faith in a number of complaints levelled against them.
He said it did not matter whether they were in private practice or advocates in the employ of the NPA.
The fact remained they were advocates who should not bring the profession into disrepute.
The highest possible degree of good faith was required of any officer of the court, the judge pointed out.
‘STOOPED LOW’: Nomgcobo Jiba
‘UNFIT TO HOLD OFFICE’: Lawrence Mrwebi