NPA claims Breytenbach leaked info to the media

Wasserman, who was testifying for a second day, told the disciplinary hearing that media reports relating to Breytenbach's suspension "created a totally false impression of what was happening".

Wasserman said: "A lot of media reports show she was speaking to the media."

His main concern, he said, was the "reputational issue … certain of these [media] reports indicates that Gerhard Wagenaar [Breytenbach's attorney] and Breytenbach spoke to the media which is contravention of the NPA media policy which impacts on the NPA's reputation."

Wasserman – who was given a brief in December to carry out an internal investigation into Breytenbach after a complaint was made against her by the lawyer for mining company Imperial Crown Trading (ICT), Ronnie Mendelow – on Tuesday testified that the NPA had accessed Breytenbach's emails on their internal server after she refused to hand over her laptop.

According to Wasserman, email correspondence was found which proved Breytenbach showed bias in favour of mining company, Kumba Iron Ore.

Criminal charges
Kumba subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore has been embroiled in a battle with Imperial Crown Trading over a stake in Sishen mine in the Northern Cape. The stake was originally awarded to Imperial by the mineral resources department. Both parties have laid criminal charges against the other.

Breytenbach faces charges for abusing her powers in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Hawks into alleged fraud and corruption in the high-profile mining rights dispute.

Wasserman earlier gave an encyclopaedic description of the NPA's media policies, which included that: "Under no circumstance can an employee present information on the NPA to the media."

Wasserman said: "We felt so very strong about the media coverage and leakage on this case. The NPA have held the argument that this is an internal matter and has nothing to do with the media."

He said his unit became suspicious when they found email correspondence dating back to 2007 between Breytenbach and a Beeld reporter, Sonja Carstens.


These emails, in the main, appear to have been personal emails with one from Carstens asking Breytenbach for help regarding an animal charity. But Wasserman said that these showed a relationship, specifically because Carstens was the reporter writing Breytenbach-related articles for Beeld.

Acting on instruction
He added: "I indicated to Wagenaar that Breytenbach was prohibited [from speaking] to media. I warned him that if [she] speaks to media then it would be perceived that he was acting on her instruction to do so."

Proceedings took a surprising turn before the lunch break, when Breytenbach's advocate Wim Trengove began his cross-examination of Wasserman.

Trengove put it to Wasseman that his unit went on a "trawling mission" through Breytenbach's personal emails in order to "rustle up further charges" against his client.

He said claiming evidence was deleted from Breytenbach's laptop was "reckless and misleading".

"It's a highly incriminating statement to make … it was reckless and misleading."

Wasserman told the hearing: "A forensic report … found that certain evidence was intentionally destroyed and deleted from the laptop."

Trengove asked on Wednesday how Wasserman could have known that what was deleted was evidence.

Forensic report
Wasserman said 508 files were deleted, but the forensic report indicated these were not retrievable so it was not possible to know their content.

"You had no basis for your evidence that what was deleted was evidence," Trengove said.

He said Wasserman had not told the hearing that nothing had been deleted from the laptop before April 30 – the day Breytenbach was suspended.

Wasserman stumbled over most of the questions put to him under cross-examination, specifically with reference to an offer Trengove claimed was made by Breytenbach to a "Mr Swart" from the NPA to hand over a mirror copy of her hard drive.

Trengove alleged Swart replied, "No. We can get all that information on the server."

Wasserman eventually conceded that he could not respond as he was unsure of those details.

The hearing continues. – Additional reporting by Sapa

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sally Evans
Guest Author
Advertising

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members
Advertising

Press Releases

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

Openview, now powered by two million homes

The future of free-to-air satellite TV is celebrating having two million viewers by giving away two homes worth R2-million

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday