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NPA appoints new chair to Breytenbach hearing

Mbenenge, who has been described by one of his peers as "a good guy", will chair the disciplinary hearing of suspended senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach when it continues next year.

His appointment follows an application brought by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in August for the recusal of the hearing's second chair, attorney Sandile July, on the basis that his position as a director at Werksmans Attorneys could create a perception of bias.

Werksmans represents steel giant ArcelorMittal South Africa (Amsa) in matters relating to the ongoing multibillion rand rivalry between Imperial Crown Trading and the Sishen Iron Ore Company, a subsidiary of Kumba Iron Ore, over a 21.4% stake in the Northern Cape Sishen Mine.

Breytenbach was suspended from the NPA in April, following allegations that she showed bias towards Sishen during the prosecution of a fraud case against Imperial Crown Trading in which Sishen was the complainant.

Before he recused himself, July slammed the NPA's reasons for bringing the application as "nonsense".

At the time July said: "It is correct to say Werksmans represents ArcelorMittal, but I don't know the details of the matter between Arcelor, Kumba and Imperial Crown Trading."

Before his recusal, July had heard the testimony from Ronnie Mendelow, the lawyer acting for Imperial. The catalyst for Breytenbach's suspension, according to the NPA, was a letter of complaint that Mendelow sent to the then national director of public prosecutions, Menzi Simelane, in October last year.

Mendelow claimed that Breytenbach had "an unnaturally close relationship" with the legal counsel for Sishen, advocate Michael Hellens SC.

Breytenbach has maintained that her suspension was a ploy by acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba to stop the prosecution of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli – a case Breytenbach pursued relentlessly until her suspension.

Mbenenge has held acting judicial appointments in the Eastern Cape High Court, the Durban High Court and the Labour Court. According to an article published on the SA Bar website, Mbenenge enjoys singing and has produced two CDs.

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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.

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Sally Evans
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