Breytenbach: Court vindicated me on Mdluli

2014-04-20 15:00

Former senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach says she feels “vindicated” by a ­Supreme Court of Appeal decision that overturned her former boss’ decision to drop ­corruption charges against suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

The court on Thursday affirmed the developing legal principle that a decision to drop corruption charges can be reviewed and ­reversed by a court.

The judgment confirmed many of the scathing findings made regarding political meddling in the justice system by Judge John Murphy in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria last year.

The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that:

.?A letter Mdluli wrote to President Jacob Zuma after the former’s suspension in 2011 was a reference to the ANC’s Mangaung ­elective conference and was “rather inappropriate”. In the letter, Mdluli wrote: “In the event that I come back to work, I will assist the president to succeed.”

.?There were “serious problems” with ­National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) special commercial crime unit head Lawrence Mrwebi’s explanation under oath as to why he instructed that charges against Mdluli be dropped.

.?Mrwebi “contradicted” himself under oath and his explanation was “untenable and incredible”.

.?Former acting NPA head Nomgcobo Jiba ignored the Mdluli debacle despite the “wide publicity, the high-profile nature of the case and the public outcry that ­followed”.

The court also rejected Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s attempt to explain away former acting commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi’s statement that he was instructed by powers “beyond” him to reinstate ­Mdluli. This was widely interpreted to be a reference to a political instruction.

Breytenbach, who fought against the ­instruction by Mrwebi, her boss at the time, said: “The findings made against the methods adopted by Jiba and Mrwebi was most gratifying.”

Breytenbach, who has left the NPA for a career in politics with the DA, was instructed by Mrwebi to withdraw corruption charges against Mdluli.

Breytenbach was subsequently suspended after she refused to do so. In her disciplinary hearing, which ended in her being ­acquitted of all charges, Mrwebi admitted that he had dropped the charges against ­Mdluli without the legally required consultation of other NPA officials.

But in his affidavit in NGO Freedom Under Law’s court challenge, he backtracked and claimed he had done the necessary consultation. The high court ruled that Mrwebi’s ­version in his affidavit was “implausible and probably ­invented”.

Former Constitutional Court Justice ­Johann Kriegler, founder of Freedom Under Law, said he was “perfectly happy” with the court’s order.

Kriegler said he thought it would be “very, difficult for [Mrwebi] to stay in his position [when] there had been a clear finding of ­serious dishonesty made against him”.

The court overturned the decisions to drop fraud and corruption charges against Mdluli, as well as the decision to drop his police disciplinary hearing.

The Supreme Court of Appeal gave ­Andrew Chauke, South Gauteng director of prosecutions, two months to decide about a further set of charges against Mdluli that relate to murder, assault and kidnapping.

The court’s unanimous order, penned by Judge Fritz Brand, confirmed that a decision to drop criminal charges can be subject to review on grounds of irrationality.

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