Tempers flare at Breytenbach hearing

2012-08-14 22:47
Glynnis Breytenbach (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Glynnis Breytenbach (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Pretoria - Tempers flared when an affidavit filed by a police officer was brought up at prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach's disciplinary inquiry in Pretoria on Tuesday.

"I object to this evidence because that issue was specifically dealt with by advocate Breytenbach in her own affidavit and this is her inquiry," Breytenbach's counsel Wim Trengove said.

The affidavit in question was drawn up by Lieutenant Colonel Sandra van Wyk, the police officer investigating criminal complaints in a dispute over mining rights in the Northern Cape between Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) and Sishen/Kumba Iron Ore.

The NPA said it suspended Breytenbach for failing to act impartially in her investigation of the dispute.

ICT's lawyer Ronnie Mendelow was testifying at the hearing at the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) offices in Silverton, Pretoria.

Mendelow said Van Wyk had been helped by Sishen's counsel Mike Hellens to draw up an affidavit used to get warrants to search ICT offices in Kimberley.

Trengove said Breytenbach did not dispute that Hellens had helped draw up affidavits for the police, and he questioned why this was being led as evidence.

Mendelow sent a letter of complaint about Breytenbach to the then National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane on 31 October last year, alleging she favoured Sishen in her probe and had an improper relationship with Hellens.

Mendelow spent the day explaining in great detail the complex background to the ICT and Sishen dispute.

Towards the end of the day, Trengove interrupted: "I'm getting anxious that this evidence may one day be said to be relevant to Miss Breytenbach and it seems to us to be quite irrelevant."

He said it had been a "day-long exposition of all ICT's grievances against Kumba and the police".

The NPA's counsel William Makhari replied: "We are getting there... at the end of the day it will tie up with advocate Breytenbach."

Trengove appeared angry when Mendelow interrupted to say why he thought an affidavit by Van Wyk, in which she responded to questions about who helped her draft the search warrant affidavit, was relevant to the hearing.

Trengove said: "I object to this witness participating in our debate. He is not here as an advocate, he is here to answer questions."

Suspicious

Mendelow earlier said ICT was suspicious about raids on its office, the department of mineral resources and the State attorney's office that took place three weeks before the mineral rights dispute was to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

The raids took place on 27 July 2011 and the court case was starting on 15 August.

The dispute arose after steelmaker ArcelorMittal did not convert its 21.4% old order mining right in the Sishen mine in the Northern Cape, into a new order mining right by the deadline of 30 April 2009.

Sishen Iron Ore Company, a subsidiary of Kumba Iron Ore Limited, which owns the rest of the rights in the Sishen mine, applied for the 21.4% stake.

However, ICT also applied for a prospecting right in the 21.4% stake, and was granted it. This led to a court battle involving Kumba, ICT, and the mineral resources department.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria then granted Kumba Iron Ore exclusive rights to the Sishen mine.

However, in May this year, the court granted ICT and the mineral resources department leave to appeal the ruling.

The matter is still pending before the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Shareholders in ICT include President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane and Atul Gupta. The Gupta family has close links to the African National Congress.

Breytenbach was suspended as regional head of the NPA's specialised commercial crime unit on 30 April this year.

She has argued that acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her in an attempt to stop her from prosecuting former police crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli on fraud and other charges.

Breytenbach has pleaded not guilty to 16 charges brought against her by the NPA.

Mendelow will return to the stand on Wednesday at 10:00.

- SAPA
Read more on:    npa  |  glynnis breytenbach
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