Mokgoro inquiry: No one willing to sign Breytenbach's suspension letter

2019-01-30 18:32
Glynnis Breytenbach. (File photo)

Glynnis Breytenbach. (File photo)

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Initially no one wanted to sign the letter in terms of which former state prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach was suspended, the Mokgoro inquiry heard on Wednesday.

This was according to former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) CEO Karen van Rensburg, who testified at the inquiry which has been tasked with establishing whether suspended deputy prosecutions boss Nomgcobo Jiba and suspended special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi are fit for office.

The NPA received a complaint about Breytenbach relating to mining company Imperial Crown Trading and rival miner Kumba Iron Ore – which were involved in a case she was working on in 2011.

Van Rensburg got involved in the matter when North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi requested that she sit in on a meeting where Breytenbach was informed of the complaint.

Van Rensburg also said that she was told to brief Jiba about the matter, who was the Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) in January 2012.

"Initially, she was not very interested and indicated it would be discussed later," Van Rensburg said.

Mrwebi recommended that Breytenbach be suspended

She added that she was later called to Jiba's office, where she was informed that Mrwebi had studied the matter and recommended that Breytenbach's actions were tantamount to misconduct and that she should be placed on precautionary suspension.

"I must admit that I was very surprised, given that advocate Mrwebi had not long been appointed and that advocate Breytenbach was at that stage reporting to advocate Mzinyathi."

Van Rensburg said she was not provided with a copy of the memorandum that Mrwebi sent to Jiba.

"As far as I recall, the meeting with advocate Jiba to inform me of advocate Mrwebi's views also took place sometime in January 2012, not long after I apprised advocate Jiba of the complaint."

READ: Mokgoro inquiry: How charges were dropped against Mdluli

According to Van Rensburg, she signed the notice of intention to suspend, dated February 1, 2012, at the request of Mrwebi, via Jiba.

This was contested on Wednesday by Mrwebi's lawyers, who said Mrwebi denied he requested that Breytenbach should be suspended. 

"He didn't request to you or advocate Jiba that she be suspended, but he only made the recommendation," said Mrwebi's counsel, Mervyn Ripp.

No one willing to sign the suspension letter

Van Rensburg recalled that Jiba asked her to sign the letter of suspension, which she refused because someone previously said in a court application that the NPA CEO did not have the delegated authority to sign such a letter.

"I then indicated to advocate Jiba that I was not going to sign a letter of suspension in respect of advocate Breytenbach."

"Advocate Jiba had signed [the] memo approving the suspension, but did not sign the letter. It thus remained in the file unsigned."

ALSO READ: Glynnis Breytenbach acquitted of all charges in NPA case

She said that Jiba also had a meeting with the Minister of Justice at the time, who also refused to sign the suspension letter and indicated to Jiba that the power was delegated to Van Rensburg.

"There was thus a stalemate, but I remained steadfast that as a matter of law, I could not sign it."  

There was another two months of talks about who was going to sign the letter before Jiba finally requested it, Van Rensburg said.

The letter was eventually signed by Jiba in April, although the date is disputed.

Van Rensburg said that Mrwebi had been asked to serve the letter on Breytenbach which he refused to do. She recalled that the letter was eventually served on Breytenbach by Security and Risk Management.

Breytenbach disciplinary

Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing cost the NPA around R6.5m and she was cleared of all charges against her. She was later charged criminally for allegations that included the unauthorised access to, and modification of, official laptop computer contents.

In 2018, she was acquitted of all charges. She left the NPA in 2014.

During her testimony on Tuesday, Breytenbach maintained that her suspension was to block the prosecution of Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and that Mrwebi and Jiba played an integral part in protecting him.

The inquiry is expected to continue on Thursday when Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Willie Hofmeyer is expected to testify.

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