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Political row simmers over Breytenbach charges

In a case which has brought strong reaction from political parties on either side of the fence, DA MP and former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach and her lawyer are to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court today on charges of obstruction and defeating ends of justice. A News24 report notes the NPA alleges Breytenbach shredded relevant papers and wiped clean her laptop while she was still the head of the organisation’s Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit back in 2012. ‘She and her lawyer Gerhard Wagenaar refused to hand over her laptop which was believed to contain evidence related to the case. She then wiped out her official laptop and shredded vital information connected to the investigation,’ NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku claimed.

Full News24 report

The DA says the charges are a witch-hunt to distract attention from its review application regarding Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. According to a BDlive report, DA federal executive chairman James Selfe said it was ‘indeed instructive’ that the charges against Breytenbach had been laid at the same time as the DA’s court action against Jiba. The DA has requested a review application at the Western Cape High Court to set aside President Jacob Zuma’s decision not to suspend Jiba nor to order a commission of inquiry despite several calls to do so by former NPA head and National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana. Selfe said the ‘trumped up’ charges against Breytenbach amounted to the ANC ‘once again using this as a cheap political gimmick to mask its own record of dealing with its own questionable characters’. He added: ‘The charges for which Advocate Breytenbach stands accused were thoroughly traversed in disciplinary hearings against her and all resulted in her acquittal. Now‚ years after the fact‚ the NPA wants to revive matters that have already been dealt with.’

Full BDlive report

The ANC and the SA Communist Party (SACP), however, have welcomed the prosecution. ‘Breytenbach has been under a cloud since her time at the NPA and as matters stand, she now has a case to answer in court regarding her alleged misconduct while at the NPA,’ ANC parliamentary Chief Whip spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said, notes a TimesLIVE report. ‘… it is improbable that the NPA would take such a decision against Breytenbach lightly.’ Mothapo dismissed claims that the decision to charge her was politically motivated. He said there was no smoke without fire and the party and Breytenbach should use the case as an opportunity to clear her name. SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said Breytenbach has a lot to answer for about her behaviour whilst she was in the NPA. ‘It is time that Glynnis Breytenbach is held accountable, now that the NPA is satisfied with its assessment of the case,’ said Mashilo.

Full TimesLIVE report

The case is a tit-for-tat response to the DA’s Jiba application. That’s the gist of a Stephen Grootes commentary on the issue on the Daily Maverick site. He argues it relates to Breytenbach’s fury at being overruled in the case against Richard Mdluli. ‘She wanted to prosecute, Jiba did not. As the courts have ruled, Breytenbach was right, and Jiba was wrong.’ Noting Breytenbach was cleared of all of the charges at her disciplinary hearing – including charges related to her treatment of her NPA laptop and certain files that were deleted – he says the NPA now claims her deletion of those files was a criminal offence and thus she’s guilty of perverting the course of justice. ‘But here’s the thing: The NPA’s own internal disciplinary hearing cleared her of this charge. And that same institution has now decided to charge her in court, many years later, on the same charge. The person who stands to benefit for this is Jiba, who has been criticised by the SCA in the Mdluli Case and the Zuma Spy Tapes case. She was also charged with perjury for her role in the laying of charges against former KZN Hawks Head Johan Booysen. And, for good measure, criticised by the judge in that case, too.’

Full Daily Maverick report

Another angle is explored in Rapport, which points out the prosecution has been instigated just 10 days after Prince Mokotedi became head of the Hawks in Gauteng. It says Mokotedi was Breytenbach’s nemesis at the NPA. The NPA laid charges against Mokotedi, its head of the Integrity Unit at the time, for allegedly contravening the NPA Act in his handling of the Breytenbach case. Mfaku, however, denied the NPA has ever been a complainant against Mokotedi despite a case number being available. Mokotedi was never prosecuted and all disciplinary proceedings were ended when he resigned. The report also notes that the Hawks have been investigating Breytenbach since August last year. The Hawks scrutinised every claim she had ever made at the NPA and even approached police officials for affidavits to check whether Breytenbach had travelled with them for consultations as claimed. Mike Hellens SC will act on behalf of Breytenbach and Wagenaar in the criminal proceedings.

Full report in Rapport (subscription needed)

Breytenbach herself claims to be ready to battle what she describes as a ‘mild irritation’ with political undertones. However, Mfaku denied Breytenbach was being victimised or that political motives were at play and said Torie Pretorius, the non-political veteran head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, based his decision on the likelihood of a successful prosecution. Breytenbach said she was irritated but not surprised, notes a Sunday Times report. ‘All of these issues were fully traversed in the disciplinary hearings against me, all of which ended in my acquittal. All the personal files I deleted (are) on the departmental server anyway, so they can retrieve (them) if they want (them), as was proved during the hearing. I don’t know why the NPA keeps pursuing the matter… but I suspect the continued pressure applied by the DA in several courts is having an effect.’ She added: ‘Furthermore, my original suspension from the NPA followed directly on my written memorandum to Advocate Jiba that charges against Richard Mdluli, the former head of police crime intelligence, were irregularly dropped by her. I wrote that I would take her decision on judicial review if she did not revoke it. Two days later, I was suspended. Go figure.’

Full Sunday Times report

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