NPA hits back at now-recused chair

2012-08-18 18:19

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has hit back at criticism over its handling of the Glynnis Breytenbach disciplinary hearing.

The NPA was heavily criticised by senior attorney Sandile July on Friday, after he had recused himself as chairperson of the hearing against Breytenbach, a senior anti-corruption prosecutor.

The NPA accused July of being biased in his approach and requested that he be replaced.

July, a director at Werksmans Attorneys, is the second chairperson to withdraw from Breytenbach’s hearing.

The NPA based its application for July’s withdrawal on comments he made during the testimony of Ronald Mendelow, the attorney for mining-firm Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).

ICT, which has links to President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, complained to the NPA that Breytenbach was not objective in her investigation of a fraud charge against ICT.

ICT was originally awarded a multibillion-rand iron-ore mining right at Sishen in Northern Cape, but the North Gauteng High Court later declared the award invalid.

Breytenbach was part of the team that investigated fraud charges against ICT, laid by its competitor Kumba.

Kumba accused ICT of forging its application for the mining right.

This week the NPA accused July of bias when it emerged his firm, Werksmans, had previously represented ArcelorMittal, which buys iron ore from the Sishen mine, in the ICT matter.

July agreed to retire as chair, but said: “This has nothing do with me being a director at Werksmans.

“It has everything to do with the questions I have asked Mr Mendelow.”

He said Mendelow felt “uncomfortable” about the questions he asked.

“I hope this hearing is not going to be controlled by people who happen to be controlled by the complainants who tell the NPA how to run the hearing,” July said.

Yesterday the NPA said July wouldn’t have recused himself on an application “that is unfounded or baseless”.

The NPA said July’s statement that he believed the application for his recusal was drafted by Mendelow, was “wild”, “unsubstantiated” and “devoid of any truth”.

July’s “vitriolic attack of Mendelow” proved his bias against the witness, the NPA said.

A new chair will soon be appointed and the hearing would not start afresh, the NPA said.

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