Breytenbach: jury out on media access
A DECISION on whether the media will be allowed in the controversial disciplinary hearing of prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach will be known next week.
Breytenbach, renowned for her dogged prosecution of corruption cases, was suspended allegedly after challenging her superiors' decision to drop charges against suspended crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli.
The National Prosecuting Authority has, however, argued Breytenbach was suspended for other reasons, including complaints stemming from the Kumba Iron Ore-Imperial Crown Trading legal battle.
Breytenbach - who is also challenging her suspension in the Labour Court next week - will know only next month whether she has been successful in the disciplinary hearing.
Her disciplinary hearing at the a uthority's Pretoria headquarters yesterday was postponed after City Press newspaper brought an application requesting the media, out of public interest, be allowed to attend the hearing.
Defended by legal heavyweight Wim Trengove, Breytenbach told presiding officer Barney Madlolo she supported the media's application.
The authority, however, argued that allowing the media into internal proceedings would intimidate and scare potential witnesses and set a bad precedent for staff.
City Press assistant editor Adriaan Basson dismissed the NPA's arguments.
"The essence of our argument is that this is no ordinary matter involving a private enterprise.
"The National Prosecuting Authority is a public office and the constitution allows for such cases to be open to the public.
"Irrespective of the reasons for the suspension, public interest far outweighs the fact that the matter is an internal hearing," Basson said.
He said the Kumba-Imperial Crown Trading saga was of equal public interest involving the president, deputy president and other prominent figures warranting the presence of the media.
"But, if Breytenbach's allegations around her suspension are true, this will be very serious and mean that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba, who ordered Breytenbach's suspension, has contravened the constitution," he said.
Basson said if the media was barred, the public would never know the truth behind the suspension.
"The public needs to be given the truth so it can make up its own mind," said Basson.
Trengove said Breytenbach supported the media's application "because open justice is a good thing".
"While we support this application, Breytenbach wants the hearing concluded as quickly as possible. She is disappointed by the delay."