The curious case of two kamikaze loyalists’ actions

Why were Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi willing to destroy their careers and reputations in their pursuit of Richard Mdluli’s defence?

They humiliated themselves, shamed their profession, broke their oaths and irrevocably damaged the National Prosecuting Authority and the police.

Both behaved like kamikaze loyalists without fear of perishing in the process.

They must have been promised substantial reward in their afterlives.

Theories and allegations abound; from an extramarital affair to a child that was born out of wedlock to dirt that Mdluli had on them to phone calls and orders from the west wing of the Union Buildings.

None has ever been substantiated, but that both Jiba and Mrwebi acted in an extraordinary “unlegal” manner is without a doubt. The host of court judgments against them bear witness to this.

There is no doubt Jiba has the interest of Jacob Zuma and his cronies – Mdluli and the others – at heart and had no qualms in targeting innocent people and destroying careers to protect them.

Her fixation on nailing Gerrie Nel, Glynnis Breytenbach and Johan Booysen bear this out.

The answer might lie in a document on the flash stick that the crime intelligence officer left behind on the table in the restaurant.

It is a secret information note, dated 29 May 2012, written by Lieutenant-Colonel Piet Viljoen to Colonel Kobus Roelofse. They were the two Hawks officers whom Anwa Dramat appointed to investigate Richard Mdluli.

Among the documents on the stick is a profile of Viljoen, who joined the police in 1981 at the age of 18. A member of the anti-corruption task team, he was selected by Nelson Mandela in 1997 to be a member of the Presidential Task Team, in which capacity he investigated Mafia boss Vito Palazzolo and testified against him in an Italian court.

He commanded a task team from 2000 to 2004 that targeted organised crime. His team nailed scores of gangsters, who received sentences exceeding a thousand years.

From 2004 till 2008 he was given the task of combating cash-in-transit robberies. He brought the total number of such incidents down from 56 cases in 2006 to 11 in 2007.

When Viljoen wrote the information note, he was busy probing the abuses of the crime intelligence secret account. He wrote in the note that he had found an instance where the account was used to purchase an air ticket for one N Jiba.

The crime intelligence secret account is used exclusively to pay agents and informants and their expenses.

If an agent must fly from one destination to another and stay in a hotel, it will be paid for by the secret account because his/her identity must be protected. The identity of agents and informants is usually secret, and they are normally identified by their agent number.

On 9 September 2010, N Jiba flew on South African Airways flight SA563 from Johannesburg to Durban and returned on the same day. The flight was paid for out of the secret account and was approved by the chief financial officer of crime intelligence, Major-General Solly Lazarus.

Viljoen said in his note: “The invoice number 155 allocated to this transaction also refers as payment to SA71, which is an agent number, which means that N Jiba is a registered agent.”

To make sure, Viljoen obtained a warrant which he served on SA Airways, demanding the passenger details of N Jiba.

They gave him the passenger’s ID number. This enabled him to conclude: “The identity number belongs to Nomgcobo Jiba ... who is currently the acting National Director of Public Prosecutions in the country.”

I am sure there will be some excuse about why Jiba’s air ticket had to be paid from the secret account, but it means only one thing: that she was on crime intelligence business when she boarded flight SA563 at OR Tambo in Johannesburg. Nomgcobo Jiba was not on a mission for the NPA, but for Richard Mdluli.

It is incomprehensible, irregular and probably unlawful that secret intelligence money pays for the expenses of a top state prosecutor, who is supposedly independent.

I want to take you back to the affidavit of Jiba’s former protégé, Advocate Vernon Nemaorani, in which he told of Jiba’s conspiracy to obliterate Gerrie Nel.

He mentioned that she had told him Lawrence Mrwebi attended some of the clandestine meetings to discuss Nel’s demise.

Viljoen found evidence that at the time, crime intelligence also flew Mrwebi from Durban to Johannesburg and back. His ticket was also paid for from the secret account.

I also found a document that shows that Mrwebi has a criminal record.

He was convicted of drunk driving in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape in April 2000. He must have been wasted, because he was sentenced to a fine of R4000 of which R2000 was suspended for four years, or imprisonment of eight months of which four months was suspended for four years. His driver’s licence was also endorsed. As it wasn’t a crime of dishonesty, it would not necessarily have counted against him.

Viljoen stumbled upon the air tickets just before he was taken off the investigation. As I understand, he learnt of the payments almost by chance.

What would the two Hawks colonels not have unearthed if they had been afforded more time and support?

I repeatedly tried to contact Viljoen after getting the note. I left messages on his phone, which he didn’t respond to. I eventually ventured to Bellville to the sick Hawks building to look for him. I asked reception to call him.

I had first seen Viljoen many years ago when he was a captain and I interviewed him for a television documentary I made about Vito Palazzolo. He had permission to speak to me.

He laughed when he saw me again and said: “Go away! I’m already in shit. You’re just going to make it much worse for me!”

He’d obviously grown much older, greyish around his temples and sporting a beard, but with the same boyish expression and inquisitive eyes.

“I can’t talk to you,” he said. “What do you want?”

When I told him that I had a copy of his information note, he wanted to know: “How the hell did you get it?”

“You know I can’t tell you. But, so it’s true?”

He looked at me for a second or two and said: “I will put my life on anything I’ve put on paper.”

Jacques Pauw is a veteran anti-apartheid journalist and documentary filmmaker. The President’s Keepers (NB Publishers) is available at good bookstores nationwide and online

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