In a victory for axed National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, the Constitutional Court has dismissed an application to have the pair struck from the roll of advocates.
On Thursday, South Africa’s highest court dismissed the General Council of the Bar of South Africa’s (GCB) leave to appeal a 2018 Supreme Court of Appeal decision to overturn an order effectively banning Jiba and Mrwebi from practicing as advocates.
In a unanimous judgment, the court found that the GCB did not establish that the matter falls within its jurisdiction, meaning that the appeal cannot be entertained.
The judgment comes as Jiba and Mrwebi wait to hear if Parliament will ratify President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to fire them. The axe fell on the two in April following the findings of the commission inquiry into their fitness to hold office, chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro.
The Mokgoro inquiry found that Jiba’s and Mrwebi’s decisions — taken in their capacities as acting national director of public prosecutions and special director of public prosecutions respectively — brought the NPA into disrepute.
In an effort that may have seen Jiba and Mrwebi exit the NPA much earlier, the GCB approached the high court in 2016 to strike them from the roll of advocates.
Lawyers are struck from the roll of advocates when they cease to be “fit and proper” for the job.
The GCB’s case dealt with the decision to drop charges against former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli; the “spy tapes” matter relating to the dropping of corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma; and the decision to authorise racketeer charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen in relation to the so-called Cato Manor “death squad” case.
The GCB was successful and the pair were placed on special leave pending the outcome of their Supreme Court of Appeal application to overturn the high court’s decision.
On Jiba and Mrwebi’s failure to prosecute Mdluli, high court Judge Francis Legodi offered a stinging rebuke: “It is this kind of behaviour that diminishes the image of our country and its institutions which are meant to be impartial, independent and transparent in the exercise of their legislative public powers.”
But, in a split judgment, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.
Following the Constitutional Court judgment on Thursday, Jiba’s lawyer Zola Majavu said his client was “emotional” at the outcome of what has been a four-year battle.
Majavu said Jiba was “too distraught to talk”.
“We are pleased with the ConCourt’s outcome,” he said. But Majavu added that Jiba is also sad because what was supposed to be the end of his client’s battle is just the beginning of another one as she waits to hear Parliament’s decision on her fate at the NPA.