Parliament’s security heads challenge suspensions

2015-09-09 09:21
Zelda Holtzman, head of the Parliamentary Protection Services. Picture: Peter Abrahams

Zelda Holtzman, head of the Parliamentary Protection Services. Picture: Peter Abrahams

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The two suspended heads of the Parliamentary Protection Services are fighting back.

The service’s head, Zelda Holtzman, and deputy head, Motlatsi Mokgatla, have referred their suspensions to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

This is after they were informed last week that their suspensions had been extended

The senior managers were placed on precautionary suspension on full pay at the end of July “to enable investigation of alleged security breaches and other issues”, according to a statement from Parliament at the time.

They were not formally charged.

Their lawyer, Sageer Pansari, said yesterday that the suspensions had now been challenged in the CCMA.

“We believe that the suspensions are unlawful, and we have set out reasons why.”

He said his clients had not received a response to their initial request for clarity on the reasons for their suspensions, which were very broad and generic.

The only response they had received had been last week when their suspensions were extended. This was after Holtzman had attempted to return to work last Monday, but instead was escorted out of the parliamentary building at 90 Plein Street.

“The reasons given in the initial letters to them have a very broad definition and require clarity,” said. Pansari.

The suspensions have triggered concern among opposition parties, with the Congress of the People this week accusing Parliament’s presiding officers of abusing their powers and conducting a “witch-hunt”.

This followed weekend reports that a private firm had been appointed to investigate the conduct of the two senior managers.

According to parliamentary insiders and media reports, Holtzman and Mokgatla had objected to the use of blue lights on a vehicle for the new secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana. They also questioned other changes, including the controversial decision to recruit members of the South African Police Service into the protection services at Parliament.

Holtzman told City Press on Sunday that she was deeply saddened at the turn of events.

“I don’t know what their motive is. I can only suspect what it means. But I do know, in terms of my own conscience, that the only thing I am guilty of is doing the right thing in the interests of the institution.”

She continued: “My dignity has been impaired. They have set the police on me … They’ve treated me like an enemy of the state. Their actions have been reminiscent of the apartheid government.”

In a statement on Monday, Parliament accused “some staff members” of acting unprofessionally by making “utterances to the media” and warned that this was in direct violation of Parliament’s code of conduct.

It stood by its previous statement that the precautionary suspensions were without prejudice, “put in place to allow for an independent investigation to take place without any negative influence”.

“Parliament notes that its security environment has progressed positively towards stabilisation and it is working hard to ensure a more sustainable solution.”

Asked to respond to a list of questions yesterday, Parliament said: “Parliament has responded to these matters in the past indicating that the process is ongoing and is not complete.”

Holtzman yesterday referred queries to her lawyer.

Read more on:    parliament

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