Prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach. File photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria - The suspension of Glynnis Breytenbach from heading the NPA’s regional head of specialised commercial crime unit was an unfair labour practice, an attorney told an arbitration hearing on Friday.

Submitting final arguments, her advocate Andrew Redding said an employee in her position could claim financial recourse from the employer.

“We are not asking for money, although we could be asking for money for that unfair [practice]. We are asking for the lifting of that unfair suspension,” said Redding.

“Suspension is the employment [environment’s] equivalent of an arrest. The only rationale for suspension is the reasonable apprehension that an employer will interfere with the investigation or repeat the misconduct,” he said.

The National Prosecuting Authority had not followed the requirements set out in the law when Breytenbach was suspended, the lawyer said.

Every employee had the right to be fully informed of the charges against them, and to be given a chance to respond before being suspended.

Quoting a list of other unrelated cases, Redding said any suspension had the potential to have “substantial reputational (sic) implications” for the employee.

“Suspending somebody is taking them out of employment, isolating them, and there are inevitable social consequences to that isolation.

“Inevitably, people say that person is probably up to no good. That person is probably guilty,” he said.

“The longer it [the suspension] goes on, the worse it becomes for the employee. They cannot work, they don’t have the dignity of being able to go and work and their dignity continues to suffer. That innuendo, that trial by insinuation, is very damaging to the employee.”

Reddy said the NPA, which was entrusted to enforce justice in the country, “was not being just to one of its own”.

“The suspension was done to punish her, to remove her from the workplace. It was an attempt to silence and marginalise her and was done without any regard for [her] rights as an employee,” said Reddy.

The hearing on Friday was held in the Public Service Bargaining Council chambers.

Breytenbach was suspended last year.

The NPA insists the suspension was because of her handling of criminal fraud and forgery complaints laid by ICT and Kumba Iron Ore in their dispute over the mineral rights to Kumba's Sishen mine in the Northern Cape.

However, she contends her suspension was triggered by her desire to go ahead with the prosecution of controversial former police crime intelligence boss Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli.

The NPA contends that there was no link between Breytenbach's suspension and Mdluli.

Mdluli had been accused of defrauding crime intelligence, but the charge was withdrawn in December 2011.

He also faced criminal charges relating to the murder, in 1999, of his former lover's husband Oupa Ramogibe, but the Boksburg Magistrate's Court found there was not enough evidence to implicate him and three others in the death.