Masutha accuses Breytenbach of meddling at NPA

FILE PICURE: Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Adv Michael Masutha. Photo: GCIS

Justice Minister Micheal Masutha launched an extraordinary attack on prosecutor turned Democratic Alliance MP Glynis Breytenbach in the justice budget debate on Tuesday, saying the cloud under which she had left her old job continued to discredit her as a politician.

Masutha said Breytenbach was not qualified to comment on strife at the National Prosecuting Authority, telling MPs that the reasons for her departure were unclear and that it was wrong of her to “go on an attack on an institution that you left in such shady circumstances”.

“It is a serious political error on the part of your party to have deployed you,” he said, then went on to suggest that Breytenbach was contributing to ongoing instability at the NPA.

“Could some of this instability have something to do with your hand that keeps on going back there? They say people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Learn from English.”

Breytenbach had called the NPA ”an unmitigated political cesspool” and cast the infighting as a result of attempts by officials loyal to President Jacob Zuma to shield him from criminal charges. She said this was why the president was trying to secure the exit of National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxazana.

“The NDPP, who has shown integrity and backbone, is the man who must decide, in June or thereabouts, whether or not the President should be charged with corruption following the “Spy Tapes” application brought by the DA,” she said.

“And of course, the President does not want an independent and fearless person to make that decision. He must ensure, at any cost, that the person who has to take that decision is a sycophant, beholden to him on many levels, to ensure that the decision is taken in his favour.”

She accused Masutha of ignoring the critical issue facing his department by refusing to mention the impasse surrounding Nxasana.

Masutha’s counter attack came at the close of a debate that was overshadowed by attacks on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela by the ANC MPs and objections on that score by the DA in an echo of clashes in the portfolio committee on justice last month when she gave her annual budget briefing to members.

On Tuesday, Loyiso Mpumlwaba picked up where his colleagues in the committee left off when he accused Madonsela of showing disrespect for the judiciary. He repeated that she had accused Judge Ashton Schippers of delivering a “cut and paste” judgment in the Western Cape High Court when he ruled that her directives were not binding but that officials had to implement them unless they gave cogent reasons for not doing so.

“We must help her, help the Public Protector,” Mpumlwaba said, drawing protest from DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen was on his feet again during the speech by ANC MP Makgathatso Pilane-Majake. He accused her of implying that Madonsela had tailored some of her reports to suit the DA in return for political support from the opposition.

“That is a direct attack on her. It is probably the most egregious attack on the public protector in the house today,” Steenhuisen said.

Presiding officer Lemias Mashile said he would study the Hansard transcripts of Pilane-Majake’s remarks to determine whether she was out of order.

Breytenbach left the NPA after she was cleared off all charges in a disciplinary hearing only to find that she was to be transferred. The NPA had accused her of failing to behave impartially while investigating the mining rights dispute between Kumba Iron Ore Sishen and Imperial Crown Trading.

She has maintained that she was targeted for opposing the withdrawal of criminal charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

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