When asked whether any of Nomgcobo Jiba’s decisions when acting as the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) could be put down to a lack of experience, Glynnis Breytenbach said: “Unfortunately no … I think the reason was a nefarious reason”.
Breytenbach, the former head of the North Gauteng office of the Specialist Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU), was testifying before an inquiry — chaired by former Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro — into whether she is fit to be deputy NDPP.
The inquiry was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa to look into whether she and national head of the SCCU Lawrence Mrwebi are fit for office, after the two had been roundly criticised in a number of court judgments in high profile and politically sensitive court cases.
Much of her evidence covered what has already been in the public domain: how she had strongly disagreed with Mrwebi’s decision to discontinue prosecution of former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli and how she had unsuccessfully tried to get Jiba to review the decision.
She also described how she had been suspended on disciplinary charges from which she was ultimately exonerated.
“I have no doubt that the disciplinary action taken against me … was a result of my management of the case against Mdluli and my insistence that he be prosecuted,” she said in her affidavit.
Breytenbach told the inquiry that when Jiba was first brought in as a deputy director of public prosecutions in the SCCU, “most of the staff were extremely unhappy”. There were others who had been there longer and Jiba was also a controversial figure, she had earlier been suspended and — Breytenbach said in her affidavit — “that there had been some sort of settlement with no details disclosed and that she had been brought back to Pretoria SCCU by [former NDPP Menzi] Simelane”.
Breytenbach added that Mrwebi — based about five blocks away at the DPP Pretoria office — was “always there”. In her affidavit, she said he “was there almost every second day as I was aware with Jiba behind closed doors”.
“I actually asked [her boss Sibongile Mzinyathi] whether he [Mrwebi] had any work to do it his office, since he spent so much time at mine. It irritated me.”
Breytenbach said that Jiba’s promotion to deputy national director “shocked” her. “I had never seen that happen before. Everyone was very surprised.” She said this didn’t happen in the public service, “certainly not in the NPA” and that there were many people more qualified.
“Not long after” she was appointed to act as national director and this also shocked her as there were a number of NDPPs who had been there longer, she also did not think she had the life experience for to head up the NPA.
It was at this point that Breytenbach was asked by panellist Thenjiwe Vilakazi whether some of the decisions Jiba has been criticised for could be put down to a lack of experience – to which she replied no.
At that point, “the mood amongst staff was that the NPA had been hijacked,” she said in her affidavit. She said that at the NPA there had been political pressure before, but never like this.
The people who were supposed to be protecting the prosecutors from this were not doing it, she said. “In my view, this was being facilitated by people inside the NPA, Ms Jiba was one of them.”
Breytenbach said after she was exonerated on disciplinary charges, she was “redeployed” to a “big empty office” with a “big empty desk” at the DPP’s office. She was not even given a computer, she said in her affidavit.
“I had little to do most days and as there was no future for me at the NPA, after 26 years, I felt that I had no option but to move on,” she added.