Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit head Lawrence Mrwebi and Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. Pictures: Etienne Creux and Motshwari Mofokeng

Johannesburg - The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has overturned a High Court ruling that ruled that Advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi should be struck off the roll of advocates.

Justice Connie Mocumie delivered the judgment in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

Jiba served as the deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and Mrwebi was the head of Specialised Commercial Crime Unit.

The two were struck of the roll in September 2016 in a damming judgment delivered by Judge Fancis Legodi who found that the pair were not fit to hold office.

They were on suspension pending the SCA appeal.

The main high court application was brought by the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB), who motivated for the pair’s removal based on several controversial cases they handled.

One of those cases involved the decision to drop corruption charges against former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

In the judgment at the SCA, the court found discrepancies with regards to the reasons why the High Court decided to disbar Jiba and the reasons presented by GCB, and as such it found no misconduct against Jiba.

“The complaints against Jiba related to the Booysen case and her handling of the spy tapes case. However, the main reason, in the High Court’s view, why Jiba was not fit and proper to remain on the roll of advocates was her handling of the Mdluli case. the majority judgment, considered the complaint against Jiba together with Jiba’s answers and explanation in the context of her position as acting NDPP and the fact that Jiba was cited as a litigant. 

"The majority judgment found no misconduct, on the part of Jiba, was established by the GCB," said the court.

With regards to Mrwebi, the SCA found that the GCB had indeed found misconduct against him, but the court erred in striking him off the roll. 

Instead the SCA recommended that he be suspended for six months.

“The majority judgment found that, in respect of Mrwebi, the GCB established the alleged offending conduct. However due to the fact that there was no personal gain from Mrwebi’s conduct and the fact that the purpose of such proceedings are to uphold the rules regulating the profession and not to punish the wrongdoer the sanction handed down by the High Court was not justified. 

"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,” read the media summary of the judgment.

The judgment was not unanimous, the dissenting judgment by Justices van der Merwe and Leach, who both said the appeals by Jiba and Mrwebi should fail.