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Appeal Court finds Jiba misconduct 'not established'

Deputy director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. File photo.
Deputy director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. File photo.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba can return to her post at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) after two years on special leave.

This comes after the Appeal Court on Tuesday morning overturned a ruling that she was unfit to practice.

The ruling split the judges who decided the case: three ruled in Jiba’s favour‚ while two ruled against her.

Three Appeal Court judges – Jerry Shongwe‚ Willie Seriti and Baratang Mocumie – found that the General Council of the Bar (GCB) established “no misconduct” in terms of Jiba’s handling of the prosecution of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

They overturned the ruling given by North Gauteng High Court Judge Frans Legodi‚ in which he stated: “Jiba flouted every rule in the fight against crime. Her failure to intervene when she was required to do so has failed the citizens of this country and in the process brought the image of the legal profession and prosecuting authority into disrepute.”

In the majority ruling‚ Judge Shongwe stated: “It is significant to note that the court a quo started by describing who Mdluli was and detailed his personality‚ characterised him in an egregious manner as if he was already convicted of the allegations against him.

“This characterisation‚ in my view‚ negatively influenced the court a quo’s evaluation of the manner in which Jiba and Mrwebi handled the Mdluli case‚ the relevance of which is not clearly explained.”

Judge Shongwe went on to dismiss Judge Legodi’s reasoning in finding that Jiba was indeed not a fit and proper person to serve as an advocate.

“In the circumstances of this case‚ there is no need to deal with a value judgment to determine whether Jiba is a fit and proper person to remain on the roll of advocates. Therefore even the sanction imposed of striking her name from the roll does not arise.

“The court a quo materially misdirected itself when it came to the conclusion that the decision is one no reasonable court could make‚” said Shongwe.

Two Appeal Court judges‚ Eric Leach and Christiaan van der Merwe‚ disagreed with the ruling given by their colleagues‚ instead ruling in favour of the General Council of the Bar and dismissing Jiba and her NPA colleague Lawrence Mrwebi’s appeals.

Judge van der Merwe criticised Jiba for her attack on the GCB‚ which Jiba accused of lying and trying to embarrass her.

“As is mentioned in more detail below‚ the GCB is the watchdog of the profession. As such‚ it bears an onerous duty owed to the public at large to ensure that practitioners meet the high standards of integrity expected of them.

“Instead of recognising the importance of the functions the GCB carries out as custos morum of the profession‚ she berated it. She alleged‚ inter alia‚ that the GCB had displayed ‘double standards’‚ that the founding affidavit of the GCB ‘seeks deliberately to mislead the court and indeed the public’ and that the application ‘is therefore misconceived‚ mischievous and is designed to embarrass me.’

“All these allegations are unsubstantiated. None of this is consistent with the high standards of integrity expected from a practicing advocate‚” argued van der Merwe.

Jiba’s lawyer Zola Majavu told TimesLIVE that Jiba was “very happy” with the court’s majority ruling‚ which he said came “after we walked a very long road”.

The National Prosecuting Authority has yet to comment.

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