NPA wants Breytenbach hearing delayed

2012-07-23 16:17
The National Prosecuting Authority wants the disciplinary hearing of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach postponed to study a judgment allowing media to attend the hearing. (File, Beeld)

The National Prosecuting Authority wants the disciplinary hearing of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach postponed to study a judgment allowing media to attend the hearing. (File, Beeld)

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Pretoria - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) wants the disciplinary hearing of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach postponed to Wednesday.

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

"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 the ruling by Judge Ronel Tolmay that media must be allowed at the disciplinary hearing.

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

The hearing would deal with matters of significant Constitutional importance and should be in the public domain, she said.

"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 might appeal the decision or it could need to consider how to implement the decision as the venue of the hearing, at the NPA offices in Silverton, Pretoria, was not suitable for media access.

The hearing was due to start on Monday and take five days.

However, counsel for Breytenbach, Wim Trengove, said they were opposed to 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.

Application dismissed

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

She has contended that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her in an attempt to protect former intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

On Wednesday, Johannesburg Labour Court Judge Hamilton Cele dismissed her application against suspension from the NPA.

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

However, he 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 North Gauteng  High Court in Pretoria for access to Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing.

Permission for access by the print media was initially granted by disciplinary hearing chairperson Barry Madolo, but the NPA subsequently said Madolo, who has since recused himself from the hearing, had no authority to make such a decision.

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.

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

"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.

The technical arguments about postponement were continuing on Monday afternoon.

- SAPA
Read more on:    npa  |  glynnis breytenbach  |  media
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