Breytenbach: Media should apply formally

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By Jonisayi Maromo

Pretoria - The media should formally apply to cover proceedings around the suspension of NPA senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, the Public Sector Bargaining Council said on Tuesday.

Responding to a request for media access by Eyewitness News (EWN) journalist Mandy Wiener, panellist Mashoro James Matlala urged the media to make a formal application.

An e-mail sent to the secretary of the council on Monday by EWN “did not provide the full particulars and the basis of the request” to cover the hearing, Matlala said in the statement.

The e-mail had requested access for general media to record the proceedings of the contentious hearing.

The request was put to an arbitrator at the council's chambers in Centurion on Tuesday morning.

The outcome was that a formal application should be made, providing information on “the basis of the request and full reasons”.

“The request by EWN in its current form does not provide the full particulars and the basis of the request to enable the parties to apply their minds to the contents request and make informed representations,” Matlala said.

On Tuesday, journalists from various media houses milled around outside the council's Centurion chambers where the request for media access was being considered.

Breytenbach is set to apply to the council for the overturning of her eight-month suspension.

She was suspended as regional head of the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) specialised commercial crime unit on April 30.

She has argued that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her to try and stop her from prosecuting former police crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli on fraud and other charges.

Breytenbach has pleaded not guilty to all 16 charges brought against her by the NPA. Her internal disciplinary hearing is set to resume next year.

It will be chaired by advocate Selby Mbenenge, who was appointed three weeks ago after Sandile July recused himself.

In July, Breytenbach supported applications by the print and broadcast media for access to her disciplinary hearing in Pretoria.

Media 24, Avusa Media, and M-Net launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria for access to the disciplinary hearing.

The application was brought after the NPA decided that journalists would not even be allowed inside its building, let alone into Breytenbach's hearing.

This was despite a ruling by the disciplinary hearing's then chairman Barry Madolo, allowing the media access.

The NPA argued that Madolo, who has since recused himself from the hearing, had no authority to make such a decision and that the decision was “irrational”.

The national director of public prosecutions opposed the media's application on the grounds that disciplinary hearings were a private affair, and that the presence of the media might intimidate witnesses.

In July, Judge Ronel Tolmay ruled: “It is of the utmost importance that the media has access to this disciplinary hearing.”

The hearing would deal with matters of significant constitutional importance and should be in the public domain, she said. - Sapa

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