Breytenbach hearing on hold

2012-07-23 16:51
The disciplinary hearing of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach has been postponed. (File, Beeld)

The disciplinary hearing of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach has been postponed. (File, Beeld)

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Pretoria - The disciplinary hearing of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach has been postponed to Tuesday.

There were hours of technical arguments at the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Silverton, Pretoria, at the start of the hearing on Monday. It has been set down for five days.

Breytenbach was suspended on 30 April as regional head of the specialised commercial crime unit, allegedly for conduct relating to cases allocated to her.

However, she contends that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her in an attempt to protect former intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

On Monday, William Mokhari, for the NPA, asked that the matter be postponed for two days to give his client time to study a judgment handed down by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

"It is only fair to us that we be given the opportunity to study the reasons for the judgment and then take an informed and appropriate legal position on it," he said.

He was referring to a ruling by Judge Ronel Tolmay that the media be allowed to attend the disciplinary hearing.

"It is of the utmost importance that the media has access to this disciplinary hearing...," she ruled.

Tolmay found that the hearing would deal with matters of significant Constitutional importance and should be in the public domain.

"Disciplinary proceedings in this matter cannot be described as private or ordinary. Given the allegations of corruption, mismanagement and political interference, serious Constitutional issues arise and the public's rights to be informed in these circumstances are undeniable."

Mokhari argued the NPA did not yet have a copy of the judgment and did not know the reasons behind it.

The NPA needed a delay as it might appeal the decision, or it might need to consider how to implement it because the venue for the hearing, at the NPA's offices, was not suitable for media access.

However, counsel for Breytenbach, Wim Trengove, said they opposed the delay as it would prejudice his client.

She would have to pay extra costs for lawyers, and her ongoing suspension since 30 April reflected on her personal and professional integrity.

"But there's an added dimension to her case in that the motive behind her suspension, and these proceedings, is to prevent her from prosecuting General [Richard] Mdluli.

"For as long as these proceedings are delayed, the NPA are succeeding with their ulterior and unlawful purpose," Trengove said.

Media allowed access

Arguments about which media should be allowed access further delayed proceedings.

In terms of the court order, all print media should be allowed access to the hearing. The only electronic media granted access was the M-Net actuality programme Carte Blanche.

However, other electronic media, including the SABC and Eye Witness News, objected.

Just after 15:00, the parties agreed to postpone the proceedings until 10:00 on Tuesday.

They also agreed that all electronic media would have access as long as they applied to the NPA for permission, and Breytenbach agreed to having them there.

Mokhari said the NPA reserved its right to appeal against the court order, but that this would not prejudice the conduct of the proceedings.

On Monday, Judge Tolmay said Breytenbach had waived her right to privacy as she wanted the media to attend her hearing.

The protection of privacy did not apply to the NPA.

"The NPA in my view, is no ordinary employer. The NPA is a public institution established under the Constitution and has a particular constitutional mandate.

"In terms of the Constitution and the NPA Act, the NPA must act without fear, favour or prejudice in prosecuting people," the judge said.

On Wednesday, Johannesburg Labour Court Judge Hamilton Cele dismissed an application brought by Breytenbach against suspension from the NPA.

This was because she had failed to show there were compelling or urgent circumstances to justify a final declaration of the unlawfulness of her suspension, he said.

However, Cele said that if the NPA did exercise its right to discipline Breytenbach, it could be found to be "flouting and frustrating" the aims of an investigation ordered by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria into Mdluli's suspension.

On Friday, Media 24, Avusa Media and M-Net launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria for access to Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions opposed the application on the grounds that disciplinary hearings are private affairs and that the presence of the media might intimidate witnesses.

Read more on:    npa  |  glynnis breytenbach

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