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Pretoria - The squabble between suspended senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach and the National Prosecution Authority over the handing over of an official laptop took centre stage at her disciplinary hearing on Friday.
Breytenbach told the hearing at the NPA offices in Silverton, Pretoria, that she was advised by her attorney not to hand over the computer until she was assured that her privacy would be respected.
She also said her lawyer had told her to become fully informed regarding the nature of the NPA investigation before she could hand over the laptop, which was required for forensic analysis as part of the probe.
NPA prosecutor William Mokhari SC said Breytenbach had been “wrongly advised”.
“In the internet and e-mail policy 1/8of the NPA 3/8 is there a provision which permits you as an employee to refuse to hand over a laptop as required by the employer?” Mokhari asked Breytenbach.
He wanted the reasons for the delayed hand-over of the computer.
“The employer requested as way back as the 7th of February and the laptop was handed 1/8over 3/8 on the 7th of May 2012. It was handed over almost after three months. You knew they were asking for it not to conduct repairs (sic),” said Mokhari.
“I was more than happy to hand over the computer at any time, and I had no objections to them examining it for whatever purposes,” said Breytenbach.
“My attorney advised me that I should not hand it over until the NPA had given me an undertaking that they would respect my privacy and confine the investigation to official documentation, and also until they tell me what they were investigating against me,” she said.
Mokhari then asked: “Your attorney, when he gave you that advice, what authority was he relying on? Was he relying on any policy of the NPA?”
Breytenbach said her attorney was relying on the Constitution.
“His advice sounded reasonable and good to me and I followed it,” she said.
Mokhari responded: “I put it to you then that the advice was not reasonable at all. There was no basis for you to have accepted that advice.”
Breytenbach responded: “You’re entitled to that view... I don’t agree.
“I wasn’t prepared to hand it over to them until they gave me an undertaking. Until they met the conditions given by my attorney, I wasn’t gonna give it to them,” she said.
Mokhari interjected: “So you refused?”
“Yeah, I did,” responded Breytenbach.
She has previously told the hearing that she kept her personal information on the laptop, including her photos and her g-mail account.
Mokhari then asked Breytenbach whether she wanted to decide for the NPA investigating team “which information to look at and what not to look at in the laptop”.
“They are investigating; they are entitled to look at everything and decide what is relevant and what is not,” said Mokhari.
At that stage, Breytenbach's counsel advocate Wim Trengove SC intervened, arguing that the NPA team did not have the right to look at whatever they wanted to, infringing his client’s rights to privacy.
“That is not correct as a matter of law. The Constitution protects her privacy. Privacy was placed under the Constitution and under the common law. To say she was obliged to let them look at everything is not correct,” said Trengove.
Mokhari was unrelenting: “I am talking about the (NPA) policy here. So which Constitution says this cannot be done? Mr Trengove, you are clearly protecting the witness.”
To cut the heated debate, chairman of the hearing, Advocate Selby Mbenenge SC, arbitrated.
“Mokhari, all law is subject to the Constitution. No law will stand if it’s not consistent with the Constitution. The witness has already referred to her right to privacy as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
Mokhari said Breytenbach’s reliance on the Constitution was baseless as there has not been any infringement of her right to privacy.
The hearing continues. - Sapa