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Pretoria - The reputation of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was the talking point on Friday at the disciplinary hearing of suspended senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach in Pretoria.
The hearing, chaired by advocate Selby Mbenenge SC earlier heard that Breytenbach was accused of, among other things, “maligning” the name of the NPA in the media.
Breytenbach's counsel advocate Wim Trengove SC read out a catalogue of 15 charges, including earning remuneration outside official NPA work, “surreptitiously leaking NPA information” to a journalist, and deliberately lying in an affidavit.
During cross-examination, NPA prosecutor William Mokhari SC asked Breytenbach to explain how important it was for a prosecutor to protect the NPA's reputation.
“It’s important that the NPA has a good name and reputation, it would be important 1/8as a prosecutor 3/8 to do your job properly so that the NPA continues to have a good name and reputation,” she responded.
“I do not, however, think that it means you need to protect the NPA’s name and reputation if the NPA is not acting lawfully. I don’t agree that it’s the prosecutor’s duty to protect the reputation of the NPA if it’s acting unlawfully,” she said.
Mokhari responded: “Oh, I see, so you are saying if it’s acting unlawfully then you can tarnish its name?”
“It’s not what I said. I said when it (the NPA)is acting unlawfully, I don’t believe as a prosecutor you have a duty to protect it,” said Breytenbach.
At that stage, Mbenenge intervened, again asking Breytenbach whether she did not have a duty to protect the NPA’s reputation.
She responded: “I don’t think that your duty as a prosecutor of the NPA supersedes your duty as an officer of the court, which is to tell the truth.”
The lengthy cross examination was dominated by questions about Breytenbach's delayed return of an NPA laptop after it was demanded by the employer as part of a disciplinary investigation.
“The employer requested as way back as 7 February and the laptop was handed (over) on 7 May, 2012. It was handed over almost after three months. You knew they were asking for it not to conduct repairs,” 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.
The NPA suspended Breytenbach last year, and said Imperial Crown Trading had complained about her handling of a criminal case against them.
However, Breytenbach contends she was suspended for not wanting the fraud charges against former crime intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli withdrawn.
The hearing resumes at the NPA's headquarters in Silverton, east of Pretoria, on March 4, when it may run for three days. - Sapa