Article rank 28 Feb 2019 The Star Early Edition BALDWIN NDABA baldwin.ndaba@inl.co.za ‘Scrutinise NPA prosecutors’

Date: 28 Feb 2019

THE Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) has asked the Mokgoro Inquiry to conduct a stringent test when deciding the future of suspended top prosecutors, advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Casac was one of the civil society organisations asked to assist the Mokgoro inquiry, led by retired Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, probing the fitness of Jiba and Mrwebi to hold office.

The hearing began last month and was due to end today, before Judge Mokgoro tables her final findings before President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 9.

Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo’s testimony was based on his experiences of sitting in similar hearings such as the Ginwala Commission, which looked into the fitness of former national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli to hold office.

Naidoo asked the Mokgoro Inquiry to strongly consider the proposal tabled by Jiba when she asked the inquiry to consider allowing prosecutors their own prosecutorial discretion, similar to that of judges.

Naidoo agreed with the proposition, saying that it would prevent situations such as one in which Pikoli was summoned to then justice minister Brigitte Mabandla’s office and was asked to withdraw criminal charges against former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

He also asked the inquiry to review the working relations between the NDPP and their respective deputies.

He said, in the current organogram, national deputy directors of public prosecutions were not accountable to their bosses for any of their perceived misconduct, and that it was up to the president to lay disciplinary actions against the implicated national deputy directors of public prosecutions.

Naidoo pointed out all these aspects to the inquiry as some of the issues that could be reviewed, saying that if left alone they would have serious implications for the independence of the NPA.

He said a more stringent test should be applied when contemplating a removal from office of either a deputy national director of public prosecution or another senior official.

“Prosecutors, be they the NDPP or deputy directors, are not in the business of seeking public popularity of being loved. They should rather aspire to be respected for doing the right thing,” said Naidoo.

“Their task is demanding and involves discretionary powers which requires strength of will and unswerving resolution in the teeth of what may be… pressure, especially from members of the national executive,” he said.

“The integrity of prosecutors should be beyond reproach and must also be seen to act without fear, favour or prejudice.”

However, he maintained that the president must retain the powers to appoint the head of the NPA but after a credible process of determining a fit and proper candidate for the post.

Freedom Under Law, which lodged a civil litigation against Jiba, for her alleged role in failing to reinstate criminal charges against former crime intelligence boss General Richard Mdluli is expected to take the stand today.

By BALDWIN NDABA baldwin.ndaba@inl.co.za

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