Angry confrontation at NPA
A fist fight almost broke out when National Prosecuting Authority officials tried to confiscate the laptop computer of one of their colleagues, prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, according to witnesses at her disciplinary hearing yesterday.
Yesterday's session dealt with the deletion of files on Breytenbach's laptop.
Breytenbach has been hauled before an NPA internal disciplinary hearing because of alleged transgressions in her handling of the mining rights dispute between Sishen and Kumba Iron Ore, and ICT.
She is facing 15 counts of insubordination and improper conduct.
Breytenbach, the head prosecutor of the specialised crimes court, contends that she was suspended to scupper her prosecution of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
NPA witnesses described a very "tense" situation that was on the brink of developing into a fist fight when NPA officials tried to take Breytenbach's work laptop from her.
NPA risk management specialist Khaya Xaba said he was told to give Breytenbach a letter of suspension on April 30, and to reclaim her laptop, which was NPA property. Xaba said Breytenbach's attorney, Gerhard Wagenaar, became "very aggressive" when he tried to carry out his instructions.
"I realised that we would have got into a fist fight if I insisted on taking the laptop."
He said Wagenaar told him Breytenbach's personal files on the computer would have to be deleted before it could be handed over.
"The intention was to delete all the information on the laptop," Xaba claimed.
The laptop was eventually handed to him in a parking area at Wagenaar's offices on May 2.
Describing a tense tussle for the laptop, "which could easily have developed into a fist fight", NPA IT specialist Eudele Swarts said he had gone to Breytenbach's office to back-up and upgrade her computer. He said that when he arrived the laptop had been dismantled and Breytenbach's IT technician, Phillip Otto, was copying its hard drive onto an external hard drive.
"I could not do the back-up or upgrading as the laptop had to be intact for me to do so," Swarts said.
He said an attempt was made to load a document-shredding programme onto the laptop but Otto had not been able to do this because he did not have an administrator's password.
Jaco Venter, hired by the NPA to conduct a forensic analysis of Breytenbach's laptop, told the hearing that a "high security" programme was used to shred 13 folders containing 580 files from Breytenbach's hard drive on May 2.
He said a folder named "Kumba ICT", containing nine files, was "shredded".
Venter said 41 deleted files could be retrieved.
However, in his testimony, he conceded that there was no evidence to suggest that the deletions were sinister in nature.
Asked by prosecutor William Mokhari why someone would shred information instead of simply deleting it, Venter replied "the intention is to get rid of the information forever".
Breytenbach's advocate, Wim Trengove, poked holes in Venter's testimony, saying that the defence was not denying that files were deleted, only that the deleted files were personal files not relevant to the NPA.
Trengrove said there were errors in Venter's report.
He said that in his report Venter said that files were shredded on April 30 whereas the date was May 2.
Venter conceded the error.
"I am asking, how much care was taken in compiling the report," said Trengove.
Venter said he was given backup files retrieved from the NPA computer server to compare with shredded files on Breytenbach's computer. Trengove accused him of having no regard for privacy because Breytenbach might well have been giving legal advice to a friend.