Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed Advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi of his intention to institute inquiries into their fitness to hold office, the Presidency announced on Wednesday.

The inquiries will be established in terms of section 12(6) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act.

The Presidency in a statement said Ramaphosa has invited Jiba, the deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, and Mrwebi, Special Director of Public Prosecutions, to make submissions by August 10, 2018 as to why they should not be suspended pending this inquiry.

In letters to Jiba and Mrwebi Ramaphosa is quoted as saying: "I cannot underscore the importance of the public’s trust in the National Prosecuting Authority and its most senior management. It is a constitutional institution that is central to the proper administration of justice. Doubt about the fitness and integrity of any one in so senior a position as you hold jeopardises this trust and the ability of the NPA as a whole.

“The allegations made in these various judgments have been in the public domain for many years now, and despite the litigation at issue not reaching conclusion the pronouncements by these various members of the judiciary have negatively tainted the image of the NPA and will continue to do so until fully ventilated and addressed,” Ramaphosa is further quoted as saying. 

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.

On July 10, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned the striking off the roll of Jiba and 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 appeal court found that the General Council of the Bar (GCB) 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 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 six 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.

Additional reporting by ANA