NPA, witness clash at Breytenbach hearing

2013-01-24 15:35

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and a witness for suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach clashed over a confidential source at her disciplinary hearing in Pretoria.

Kumba attorney Anthony Norton earlier today told the hearing how he found out about a person who wanted to become a state witness in a mining and prospecting rights dispute between Kumba and Imperial Crown Trading (ICT), which had escalated to a criminal case.

The NPA contends Breytenbach was suspended in April because she was focusing too heavily on the ICT aspect of the criminal investigation, after ICT lawyer Ronald Mendelow laid a complaint against her at the NPA.

ICT’s complaints included that Breytenbach was helped by Mike Hellens, an attorney for Kumba briefed by Norton, in drawing up search warrants of their premises, and that they were too close.

Breytenbach contends she was suspended because she did not want the fraud prosecution against former crime intelligence head Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli stopped.

During testimony and cross-examination today, Norton said he received a call from lawyer Anton Roets, who had helped with the legal proceedings in the matter.

According to Roets, another attorney involved in the process had phoned him to say there was someone at ICT who wanted to turn state witness.

He told Hellens, and he understood that Hellens told Breytenbach about this.

“The information we received was that an individual involved in the process wanted a Section 204 [immunity from prosecution as a State witness in terms of Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act].

This tip-off did not include the name of lawyer Nazeer Cassim, who was involved in setting up a meeting with ICT director Archie Luhlabo, the hearing was told.

It had already heard that Luhlabo was contacted via an intermediary, and that, when he met Cassim, a message from Hellens regarding being a State witness was conveyed.

Mandla Zulu, the NPA prosecutor at the hearing, pressed Norton on the identity of the confidential source. He said the information was useless, and that there was no such attorney.

Norton insisted that he could not reveal the person’s identity because of attorney-client privilege, and threatened to sue Zulu for defamation if he was being accused of lying.

An adjournment was granted for Norton to ask the source if their name could be revealed. Norton said he had left a message with the source.

Earlier, Norton told the hearing’s chairman advocate Selby Mbenenge SC that he initially had concerns about Hellens working with Breytenbach on warrants.

He had consulted a number of senior lawyers, including advocate Gilbert Marcus, who said there were no ethical issues.

“They all indicated to me that they didn’t believe there was any difficulty with it,” he said.

Hellens is expected to testify this afternoon.

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