NPA's bid to stall Breytenbach hearing

The NPA, represented by advocate William Mokhari SC, has asked for a postponement to Wednesday to decide on the authority's next move. (Gallo)

The NPA, represented by advocate William Mokhari SC, has asked for a postponement to Wednesday to decide on the authority's next move. (Gallo)

Breytenbach's lawyers argued the NPA is stalling her disciplinary enquiry as part of its "motive in delaying her prosecuting [Richard] Mdluli".

Breytenbach's advocate Wim Trengove is arguing for the hearing to continue uninterrupted, despite an order handed down by the North Gauteng High Court on Monday which granted the media access to proceedings.

The NPA, represented by advocate William Mokhari SC, has asked for a postponement to Wednesday to decide on the authority's next move.

The media brought an application for access to the suspended senior prosecutor's disciplinary hearing which was due to begin at the NPA's offices in Silverton, Pretoria.

The disciplinary hearing's former chairperson granted access but the NPA later decided to ignore this ruling, which led to the urgent court application brought by Media24 on Friday.

A new chair, Sandile July has now been appointed to oversee Breytenbach's hearing.

Trengove argued: "The NPA above all should obey the orders of the courts until they are overturned. No harm can be done by obeying the court until its order is overturned. Its effect will merely be that there is print reporting on these hearings and I cannot imagine that the NPA can yet again take that order on appeal.
It has already been punished for the irresponsible way it has responded to the print media to gain access to this matter."

Buying time
Mokhari argued the NPA needed two days to peruse the court order, so it could make a decision on whether it would appeal it or not.

"The employee suggests that the process should start. But we have to deal with it [the court order] and any suggestion that a postponement by two days to allow the NPA time to consider its options is unreasonable," Mokhari argued.

Mokhari told the hearing that the NPA needed time to "understand the ambit of the order and its effect on the enquiry going forward".

But Trengove said the NPA was not thinking about the prejudice a postponement would have on his client, Breytenbach.

"She [Breytenbach] was suspended on April 30, more than two months ago. The ongoing suspension and charges hanging over her, reflect on her personal and professional integrity. She is entitled to this process being carried out expeditiously. The motive behind these proceedings is to stop her from prosecuting General [Richard] Mdluli. And as long as these are delayed the NPA is winning in delaying that [Mdluli] matter."

"For as long as these proceedings are delayed, the NPA are succeeding with their ulterior and unlawful purpose," Trengove said.

Trengove continued: "That is why the court ordered the media attend the hearing because it is a matter of public interest which will be best served by the expeditious completing of these proceedings."

Protecting Mdluli
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 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.

The technical arguments about postponement continued on Monday afternoon. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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Sally Evans

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