Tensions run high in Breytenbach hearing

2012-08-15 13:49

Senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach’s legal team have accused ICT lawyer Ronnie Mendelow of “arguing the case (against Breytenbach) from the witness box”.

Tensions in the hearing were sky-high today as Advocate Wim Trengove, representing Breytenbach, raised several objections to Mendelow’s testimony, saying that Mendelow was making legal arguments and inferences that should be left to chairperson of the hearing Sandile July to decide.

Trengove went so far as to ask July to order Mendelow not to enter into legal debates with him, as Mendelow was at the hearing as a witness.

July twice had to remind Mendelow that he was a witness in the matter.

Mendelow was testifying about charges against Breytenbach related to the role that Advocate Mike Hellens, counsel for Sishen, had played in the drawing up of an application for police search and seizure warrants against Sishen rival ICT.

This was in an investigation into a dispute between the two companies over mining rights.

Referring to emails between Breytenbach and Hellens – which were obtained by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) from Breytenbach’s NPA email account – Mendelow testified that it also appeared that Hellens had drafted a letter on behalf of Major-General Hans Meiring of the Hawks.

Mendelow testified that the email was sent to Breytenbach from Hellens with an attached draft letter, which was exactly the same as the one ICT eventually received from the police.

“It’s hard to believe that a senior police officer like General Meiring could not have drafted his own documents and (instead) left it to (Sishen) to call the shots,” said Mendelow.

Trengove interceded: “I wonder why the witness says (Meiring) drafted them. All that he can say is that they are from (Meiring’s) office.”

Trengove said that Mendelow was making inferences and that this was July’s task – as hearing chairperson.

This was to be only the first of several objections Trengove made to Meiring’s testimony about Breytenbach’s alleged improper conduct.

As tensions rose, Trengove eventually pushed his chair back and muttered: “This is unbelievable.”

He was responding to Mendelow’s testimony about Hellens’s involvement in preparing the search and seizure warrants.

Mendelow said that counsel for a complainant were “appointed for one cause only, to advance their interests in a criminal complaint.

“(For counsel) to be so involved in drafting of warrants ... will inevitably give rise to an unobjective, biased representation of facts.”

Mendelow said it was “highly improper” for this to be the case.

Trengove immediately objected to an attorney leading evidence on what the proper conduct for a prosecutor was.

Mendelow quipped that he could because he had “read the code of conduct”, to which Trengove said, “I also object to this witness debating with me.”

William Mokhari, representing the NPA as a prosecutor, argued that Mendelow was entitled to give this evidence because he was an attorney with 32 years’ experience.

“This witness is not just talking hogwash. He’s testifying to affidavits deposed by various parties.”

The hearing continues.

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