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Breytenbach's witness threatens NPA laywers

Kumba’s lawyer, Anthony Norton, is testifying in Glynnis Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing.

Suspended National Prosecuting Authority prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach is seen ahead of her disciplinary hearing in Pretoria on Wednesday 25, July 2012. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

SILVERTON - There was a heated exchange at Glynnis Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing on Thursday, with one of her witnesses threatening to sue the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) legal team for defamation.

Kumba Iron Ore Limited's attorney, Anthony Norton, today testified in her disciplinary hearing.

Breytenbach was suspended in April 2012, ostensibly because of her handling of the multibillion rand Sishen mining rights case.

The prosecuting body's advocate, Mandla Zulu, wanted to know from Norton the name of the lawyer who told him that Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) director Archie Luhlabo wanted to turn state witness.

The suggestion from the NPA has been that rumours about Luhlabo's desire to defect were created.

The request led to a heated exchange around attorney privilege.

"If the NPA's counsel thinks they can hide behind qualified privilege in putting propositions to me in bad faith, where they haven't got any factual basis for suggesting that we're lying, I will sue them all for defamation..."

Advocate Zulu interrupted him, saying: "You're a witness; you're not going to threaten me… you're here to answer questions."

Chairperson Selby Mbeneng stepped in and Norton agreed to call the anonymous lawyer to ask if his name could be divulged.

'BREYTENBACH MADE IT CLEAR KUMBA WOULDN'T BE FAVOURED'

In his testimony earlier, Norton said Breytenbach had repeatedly made it clear his client would not receive preferential treatment in the mining rights case between Kumba and Imperial Crown Trading.

Norton said when he first met Breytenbach, he felt like a schoolboy as she put him in his place using rude language.

"It wasn't the reception that I thought we would get. Not in the sense that I thought she would be very warm and fuzzy towards us, but I certainly thought we would have a more cordial reception.

"I thought she was, in a sense, dismissive."

He said Breytenbach told him that if his clients were found to have their hands dirty, she would nail their hides to the wall.

Norton refused to answer numerous questions during cross-examination, citing client privilege.

ICT alleges that Breytenbach showed bias towards Kumba, a subsidiary of the Sishen Iron Ore Company, in the criminal investigation into alleged fraud and corruption during the mining rights dispute.

It was ICT lawyer Ronnie Mendelow's complaint to the NPA that acted as a catalyst for her suspension.