Breytenbach 'victim of power abuse'
A heated battle raged in the Johannesburg Labour Court yesterday as the lawyer for suspended senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach fought for her suspension to be lifted.
The battle began shortly after Judge André van Niekerk deferred a decision on whether police crime intelligence head Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli's suspension would be lifted.
Breytenbach says she was suspended from duty by the National Prosecuting Authority for querying its decision to drop criminal charges against Mdluli.
Mdluli is challenging his suspension in the same court.
Judge Van Niekerk said he would make his decision once an appeal by Mdluli against a Pretoria High Court interim order - granted to lobby group Freedom Under Law - preventing Mdluli from working for the police was heard.
Mdluli's lawyer, Graham Moshoane, said he did not know when the appeal would be heard.
The interim order was granted pending the lobby group's request for a review of the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to drop criminal charges against Mdluli and a decision by the police to drop Mdluli's internal disciplinary charges.
Mdluli faces five separate investigations for his alleged role in the murder of his former lover's husband, Oupa Ramogibe, and for abuse of the crime intelligence slush fund.
Breytenbach claims she was not suspended, as the state alleges, for her abuse of her powers in the multibillion-rand criminal case between Kumba Iron Ore and Imperial Crown Trading, but for questioning her superiors' decsion to drop the criminal prosecution of Mdluli.
Breytenbach's lawyer, advocate Andrew Redding, criticised the authority's disciplinary processes and argued that suspension was equivalent to arrest.
He said Breytenbach could only be suspended if she had committed a serious offence or jeopardised an investigation.
"Neither has occurred. The charges are trivial. They include that she earned an income from renting a flat and from stabling horses. The state infringes on her dignity, freedom to work and tarnishes her image."
Redding said there was an ulterior motive for her "prosecution".
"That is her questioning the decision to drop Mdluli's criminal charges," Redding said.
"It is highly suspicious that her suspension letter was given to her a week after it was signed and dated ... the exact time she questioned acting National Prosecuting Authority head Nomgcobo Jiba about the dropping of the charges.
"Jiba's excuse that the letter got caught up in the 'logistical quagmire' is a lame explanation. Even Jiba concedes there were no grounds to suspend her."
Redding said Breytenbach was caught in an incredible vortex of abuse of power.
"Her suspension was announced before she was even told ... she was not heard, never given the real reasons for suspension with the NPA's excuse that the inspector-general of intelligence had to investigate the Mdluli allegations being rubbished by the inspector-general herself," he said.
Redding claimed the authority was using a "convenient excuse" to remove a "troublesome prosecutor".
State attorney William Mokhari argued that the case was not urgent and did not belong in the Labour Court.