14 July 2024 | 12:28 AM

State witness mystery clarified at Breytenbach hearing

Key Takeaways

The head of the Johannesburg State Attorney’s office was one of the two attorneys who were behind the so-called tip-offs which led to a meeting with a director of mining company Imperial Crown Trading.

Kgosi Lekabe allegedly told Kumba Iron Ore’s attorneys, Nortons, that “someone in the ICT case wanted a section 204 (indemnity).”

This is according to testimony led on Thursday afternoon by advocate Michael Hellens, who is the second witness to testify on behalf of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach in her disciplinary hearing.

A second attorney who had heard the same rumour, regarding an ICT director, was Ian Small-Smith, according to Hellens.

Hellens testified that Breytenbach had told him that “Ian Small-Smith had called her and told her that he hears that Archie Luhlabo (ICT director) wants to become a state witness and that he is represented by advocate Nazeer Cassim. She told me that she had called Cassim and he said he didn’t represent Archie.”

Hellens then said: “I was told by Norton that (Anton) Roets had had a discussion with Lekhabe, who had told him that someone in the ICT case wanted a 204. (Anthony) Norton then phoned me.”

Intimidation claims

The NPA has alleged that Breytenbach together with Hellens had attempted to “intimidate” Luhlabo into becoming a state witness in the fraud case against ICT.

ICT attorney Ronnie Mendelow testified last week that Breytenbach’s attempt to approach Luhlabo through an advocate Nazeer Cassim had been improper.

Luhlabo earlier testified that he had never intended on becoming a state witness as he had not done anything to warrant his needing indemnity.

Breytenbach was suspended in April 2012 for her alleged lack of impartiality in the fraud investigation into Imperial Crown Trading.

The company has been locked in a battle with rival miner Kumba Iron Ore’s subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore Company (Sioc) over a multibillion-rand stake in the Sishen Iron Ore mine in the Northern Cape since 2009.

Breytenbach was accused of “engaging” Sioc’s legal counsel, advocate Hellens, against Imperial Crown Trading in the drafting of affidavits for an application for a search-and-seizure warrant in 2010.

Mendelow wrote a complaint against Breytenbach, to the former head of the NPA Menzi Simelane in October 2011.

Tough cookie

Earlier on Thursday Hellens described Breytenbach as a “very robust individual” who is “very much her own person”.

Hellens started his evidence in chief on Thursday afternoon and told the hearing that he has known Breytenbach for 25 years.

He said that she is “thoroughly independent and I have a high regard for her. I would say we are friends.” He also noted that Breytenbach was “always fair. But if you trifled with her or if you tried to sell her a lie you would be sorry.”

Breytenbach’s advocate Wim Trengove put it to Hellens that Mendelow had earlier testified that both Hellens and Breytenbach had acted “overtly hostile” towards ICT’s legal counsel — Mendelow and advocate Edmond Wessels — at a court hearing regarding the ICT and Kumba case in Kimberley.

Hellens rubbished the claim, saying: “First of all, let me make it clear, Mendelow didn’t speak to me at all, I haven’t actually formally met him.

“That day I didn’t meet him. Edmond Wessels did come up to me, I don’t want to go into why — there is a history. But I have no regard whatsoever for Wessels as a person or as a lawyer and I don’t speak to him and he knows that.

“When he came up to me in a smarmy manner he knew he could not expect an answer. To say I was evasive is arrogance in the extreme because that means that he deserved an answer, but he didn’t ask me a question. I was not evading him. I was treating him with disdain.”

Hellens will continue his evidence in chief on Friday.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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