National Prosecuting Authority's reputation in tatters

Posted 29 May 2013 Written by Mandy Wiener
Category Justice

The reputation of the criminal justice system is in tatters following the repeated failures of the NPA in high-profile matters and prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach’s suggestions of abuse of power and political interference, writes Mandy Wiener in The Daily Maverick.

On Monday Breytenbach was cleared of all disciplinary charges brought against her by her employer, the NPA. Furthermore, it was ruled she had been victimised and her constitutionally-enshrined right to privacy violated during the official investigation of the complaint against her. For justice to be seen to be done, however, the NPA now faces a test it dare not fail if it is to begin restoring its credibility and integrity: it must allow her to continue with all of her cases.

As advocate Selby Mbenenge handed down his ruling in prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach’s official disciplinary inquiry yesterday, her colleagues in the VGM building watched the score tick over on Twitter from GB 1 – NPA 0 all the way to GB 15 – NPA 0, the final score.

It was a whitewash, a love game, in a year long clash which has seen no love lost between employer and employee. Mbenenge delivered the death blow, “In all these circumstances, the guilt of the employee on this plethora of charges has not been proven” and prosecutors fist-pumped the air in delight. Some had even snuck into the passage alongside the room where the judgment was being delivered, to eavesdrop on the verdict and hear it for themselves. For many at the National Prosecuting Authority, this decision was as much about them as it was about Breytenbach.

Her legal team put it most succinctly and appropriately in the very first paragraph of its final heads of argument to Mbenenge:
This is not an ordinary disciplinary enquiry. It does not merely concern the relationship between employer and employee. It concerns a conflict between a prosecutor who has acted with integrity and courage in the performance of her functions without fear, favour or prejudice, and some of her superiors bent on subverting the rule of law by protecting a senior police officer from prosecution. It thus does not merely concern Ms Breytenbach’s right to be vindicated. It also concerns the public interest in the vindication of the rule of law.
The case of Glynnis Breytenbach is famously complex and over the year that I spent reporting on it, I dubbed it #SAsMostComplicatedStoryYouShouldCareAbout. In short, Breytenbach, the regional head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU), was accused of showing bias towards Kumba Iron Ore in the Sishen mining rights case in Kimberley. It was an ugly mining brawl involving a politically connected mining house, clandestine tape recordings, private investigators and forged documents.

She was suspended on the basis of a complaint laid against her by the Gupta/Zuma associated Imperial Crown Trading, the accused in the matter. But Breytenbach, a feisty and abrasive customer, believed the acting head of the NPA, Nomgcobo Jiba, and the national head of the SCCU, Lawrence Mrwebi, were merely using that complaint as an excuse to get her out the way so she wouldn’t pursue the prosecution of their friend, former Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli. The trio have a long history and debts were being called in.

According to Breytenbach, there was gross abuse of power in pursuit of political interests and an undermining of the very principle that underpins prosecutorial independence – to prosecute without fear, favour or prejudice. She reckoned she was being hit by trumped up charges to keep her out the way and it looked bad.

Continues at source.

Here's another interesting take on the case from Business Day

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