Former state prosecutor and now DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach was on Wednesday acquitted of all charges relating to unauthorised access to, and modifying official laptop computer contents while she was still at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Pretoria North Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi acquitted Breytenbach and her co-accused and former attorney Gerhard Wagenaar, finding that neither of them had broken any laws.
The charges related to documents deleted in a matter of a mining rights case involving Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) and Kumba Iron Ore subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore, in which Breytenbach was involved in at the time she worked for the specialised commercial crimes unit within the NPA.
Breytenbach and Wagenaar argued that Breytenbach was authorised to not only delete personal information from the work laptop but also make a mirror image of all its contents and that all was done in agreement with the NPA and in the presence of NPA officials.
Nemavhidi found that there was no evidence they had taken authorisation away from Breytenbach, how it was taken away and how that person was authorised to withdraw her authorisation.
He further said that deletions were made with the knowledge of senior NPA officials and that she did not delete the files to conceal evidence.
“There was no internal investigation or criminal investigation,” said Nemavhidi.
“That file did not contain anything that would cause accused one to stand trial.”
On deleting a file deemed as personal information, Nemavhidi said Breytenbach had the right to protect her privacy before handing back the work laptop.
Previously, during her evidence-in-chief, Breytenbach said the case against former police crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli was at the heart of the reason for her suspension and the subsequent criminal charges levelled against her.
Breytenbach was involved in the Mdluli case as the Specialised Commercial Crimes unit was investigating him for fraud, theft and corruption.
She testified that she had become more involved when the investigating officers told her that there was interference by police and the NPA.
She testified that Advocate Lawrence Mrwebi was appointed as the head of the specialised commercial crimes unit and interfered with the Mdluli case by demanding that the charges against him be withdrawn, despite a prima facie case against Mdluli.
Last year, Breytenbach and Wagenaar were acquitted on two counts of obstructing or defeating the ends of justice – which relates to their refusal to hand over an official laptop computer to NPA officials who were investigating acts of misconduct against Breytenbach.
Following the judgment, an elated Breytenbach told reporters that she felt vindicated.
“We have always said that we were innocent, we always held the view that these charges were malicious, I still hold that view and my rights are reserved in that regard,” said Breytenbach.