Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit head Lawrence Mrwebi and Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. Pictures: Etienne Creux and Motshwari Mofokeng
Johannesburg - Silas Ramaite - the acting national director of public prosecutions - is expected to be the first witness to testify at the commission of inquiry into the fitness of two senior public prosecutors, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, to hold office in the National Prosecuting Authority.

This was revealed by Justice Yvonne Mokgoro’s inquiry team ahead of the hearing which begins in Centurion, Pretoria, on Monay. The inquiry’s spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu said Ramaite would be the first to take the stand and would be followed by the former head of the South African Commercial Crimes Unit, advocate Chris Jordaan, SC.

In November last year, Ramaite irked panel members charged to appoint a new director of public prosecutions.

He was among 14 candidates who applied for the job but the panellists who included the Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe, appeared unimpressed with his failure to answer questions about the collapse of systems at the NPA. Ramaite, who was the longest-serving NPA official among the 14 candidates, was not even placed on the shortlist of people who were recommended to President Cyril Ramaphosa for appointment.

While Radebe’s panel did not give reasons for excluding him and other candidates, his performance during his interview had evidently annoyed the panellists who repeatedly asked him, without success, to answer questions.

At the time Radebe’s panel also heard that Ramaite was allegedly part of a team of senior NPA prosecutors including Jiba and Mrwebi who pressured the former acting KwaZulu-Natal NPA’s head, advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa, to withdraw charges of fraud and corruption against two prominent KZN ANC officials and former MECs Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni in 2012.

During those hearings, Mlotshwa told the panel that he was overlooked for the permanent job after he had a fallout with his superiors in Pretoria over his decision to continue prosecuting Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni.

Mlotshwa said he was instructed by his seniors, Willie Hofmeyr, Jiba, Ramaite and Mrwebi, to withdraw the charges against Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni. Ramaite is today expected to give testimony about requirements of a candidate who is fit and proper to hold office in the NPA.

The Mokgoro inquiry was established in October last year.

Ramaphosa announced his decision to institute an inquiry into the fitness of Jiba and Mrwebi to hold office after he gave the pair an opportunity to make submissions in August as to why they should not be suspended pending this inquiry.

Both Jiba, who is deputy national director of public prosecutions, and Mrwebi, a special director of public prosecutions, are currently on suspension on full pay.

In her notice of the inquiry, Justice Mokgoro said the inquiry was not a judicial inquiry nor a disciplinary hearing or a trial. “The inquiry is not determining whether anyone should face criminal prosecution nor whether anyone is civilly liable for any breaches of the law,” she said.

While Jiba and Mrwebi will be expected to defend themselves at the inquiry, they face another hurdle in the Constitutional Court.

The ConCourt is due to hear the appeal of the General Bar Council of SA (GBCSA) against the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturning a Pretoria High Court ruling to strike Jiba and Mrwebi off the roll of advocates.

SCA overturned the ruling in July last year, which prompted the GBCSA to petition the Concourt.

The appeal is expected to be heard on March 14.

Political Bureau