No role in crafting new rules - Parliament

2015-08-02 22:03
Members of the EFF are taken out of Parliament during the president’s state of the nation address earlier this year. PHOTO: Lerato Maduna

Members of the EFF are taken out of Parliament during the president’s state of the nation address earlier this year. PHOTO: Lerato Maduna

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Johannesburg - Parliamentary officials had no role in the adopting of new rules concerning its protection service last week, with the body guided by the decisions made by its two houses, Parliament said on Sunday.

"Parliament notes with concern various media coverage on the strengthening of its protection services. The National Assembly has adopted rules aimed at ensuring the smooth running of House sittings," the body said in a statement.

"In arriving at the new rules, members identified that the Parliamentary Protection Services (PPS) would play a key role in implementing the new rules." 

The bolstering of the PPS's capacity is a purely "administrative function" which fell under the Secretary of Parliament, who is the head administration and accounting officer.

"The official’s sole purpose is to provide support to all Members of Parliament and to implement all the administrative decisions of the Houses and other decision-making structures. Officials of Parliament are, therefore, not policy makers. The decision to strengthen the capacity of the PPS is a case in point," Parliament said.

"The administration of Parliament distances itself from alleged reports that suggest that it has the power to question, change or reject the decisions of the policy making structures of Parliament."

On Sunday, City Press reported PPS head Zelda Holtzman and her deputy Motlatsi Mokgatla objected to the hiring of police for Parliament after its rules had been amended to allow this.

Holtzman and Mokgatla

Both Holtzman and Mokgatla were escorted out of the parliamentary precinct by a junior officer in full view of staff shortly after being told of their suspension on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the two had requested letters detailing reasons for their precautionary suspensions, which were provided by Deputy Secretary to Parliament Baby Tyawa. By the time they returned to their offices, their computers had been confiscated.

Holtzman and Mokgatla were forced to hand in their parliamentary access cards, the keys to their offices and their parking discs before being escorted to their parked cars and out of the precinct.

City Press reliably learnt that Holtzman and Mokgatla were suspended over their opposition to the inclusion of police officers as part of the parliamentary protection service, questioning the process that was followed in incorporating the police into the parliamentary structure.

They have also questioned the appointment of a junior security official as the person in charge of police deployment in the chamber and are generally unhappy about how Parliament plans to bolster security.

The official put in charge of the project to "boost parliamentary security", whose name is known to City Press, is an asset manager for PPS. Holtzman and Mokgatla are former MK soldiers, and Holtzman was the deputy commissioner of the police in the Western Cape.

Holtzman told City Press: “We are weighing up our options and taking advice because we have our personal, political and professional integrity to defend.”

Mokgatla declined to comment.

Forcefully eject unruly MPs

Parliament amended its rules last week to make it possible to forcefully eject unruly MPs. The Economic Freedom Front has disrupted sittings of the National Assembly at least four times in the past year.

In February, police officials wearing white shirts and black pants frogmarched EFF members out of the National Assembly chamber during President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address.

In terms of the amended rule 53A, Parliament’s protection services and the sergeant at arms, acting on the instructions of the presiding officers, will be called upon to remove a member who resists any reasonable request for the member to leave the House.

Parliament said its staff remained a professional administration available to all party members that constituted Parliament.

"Parliament wishes to put on record that all its officials are subjected to the rigour of interviews by well constituted panels including its accounting officer," the body said.

"Suggestions that professional staff are aligned to any office-bearer, political party or Member are devoid of all truth. Parliament officials will continue to focus on the work at hand, to rebuild an effective and efficient administration that responds to the needs of the Members of Parliament."

It said the "precautionary" suspensions of Holtzman and Mokgatla remained an administrative matter and any other interpretation of the suspensions by various media is "unfortunate, misleading and improper".

Active duty police

City Press revealed last week that Parliament had recruited 22 active police officers to be incorporated into the parliamentary protection unit, even though they remained on the SA Police Service payroll.

It bought them the same uniform worn by parliamentary protection officers – lime-green shirts and black pants – to start work this month.

Parliament said the move was to boost the capacity of the parliamentary protection unit to deal with unruly MPs.

The ANC formally tabled the proposal to second police to Parliament in its submission to the rules committee on Tuesday last week, two days after the City Press revelation, saying this would be an interim measure while parliamentary protection services personnel undergo training.

ANC MP Richard Mdakane, who presented the ANC’s submission, said the secondment of security services would last six months.

Political horse trading ensured the surprise clause was not adopted, as all opposition parties warned the move would be unconstitutional.

Announcing the Holtzman and Mokgatla suspensions on Thursday afternoon, Parliament at the time said it had taken the drastic measure to enable investigation – into alleged security breaches and other issues affecting the parliamentary protection services – to take place "in an environment free of any perception of possible bias".





Read more on:    saps  |  cape town  |  parliament

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