CAPE TOWN, July 10 – The Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday overturned the striking off the roll of advocates of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi.
In a majority judgment delivered by Judge Connie Mocumie, the SCA upheld their appeal against a 2016 ruling by the Pretoria High Court with costs.
The court set out the three guidelines for removing an advocate from the roll, namely proven misconduct, the discretionary view that he or she is not fit to practice in the profession, and whether suspension would suffice.
With regard to Jiba, the deputy national director of public prosecutions, the appeal court found that the General Council of the Bar had failed to establish misconduct on her part with regard to the handling of the case of Richard Mdluli, the former crime intelligence boss who controversially escaped fraud and corruption charges.
The GCB’s complaint against Mrwebi, the special director of public prosecutions, also related to the Mdluli matter, and particularly that he had misrepresented the extent of his consultation with the NPA’s Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi before taking a decision to withdraw the charges.
The appeal court found that the GCB did establish misconduct on the part of Mrwebi, but that the sanction of scrapping him off the role was not justified because his conduct did not bring him personal gain.
“The majority judgment further held that the High Court materially misdirected itself in striking Mrwebi from the roll, it failed to consider why suspension was not an appropriate sanction. The majority judgment held that the appropriate sanction is for Mrwebi to be suspended as an advocate for a period of 6 months from the date of 15 September 2016.”
A dissenting judgment by Judge Christiaan Van der Merwe held that the appeals of Jiba and Mrwebi should fail and the cross appeal of the GCB should succeed.
Both Jiba and Mrwebi were placed on special leave in 2016, and last year the Pretoria High Court set aside a decision by NPA head Shaun Abrahams to withdraw fraud and perjury charges against Jiba.
They were barred from performing their functions at the NPA pending the outcome of their appeal against their scrapping off the roll.
Jiba was accused of breaching this condition and recently visiting the NPA offices. (ANA)