Fisheries minister and DG avoid court battle, for now, as matter is withdrawn

2019-02-21 19:10
Senzeni Zokwana (Picture: Supplied)

Senzeni Zokwana (Picture: Supplied)

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Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana's bid to stop the disciplinary hearings of three officials in a Western Cape High Court matter against the department's director general, Mzamo Mlengana, has been withdrawn.

The matter was set to be heard by Judge Elizabeth Baartman on Thursday.

Her office, however, confirmed that the matter had been withdrawn.

The minister's spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyana, told News24 the Public Service Commission had intervened and would facilitate the matter "to avoid a court battle in a public space".

READ: Zokwana tries to stop disciplinary hearings of three officials

This process was expected to commence next week, he said.

Should this intervention fail, the matter will return to court.

Last month News24 reported that Zokwana cited the need to protect classified documents when he tried to get the Western Cape High Court to order the department's director general, Mlengana, to stop the disciplinary proceedings of three officials.

National security risk

Zokwana's advocate Porchia Long previously said the minister had tried to resolve the matter with Mlengana as he believed that the hearings could affect investigations by the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Public Protector, which he felt were better placed to probe the allegations.

Mlengana was appointed in 2016 and suspended in 2017.

According to court papers, while Mlengana was on suspension, whistleblowers made certain protected disclosures to Zokwana.

The Gauteng High Court ruled that the minister had no power to suspend him, and Mlengana returned to his post last year. He then instituted disciplinary proceedings against deputy director general Siphokazi Ndudane, Nazime Parker and Thembalethu Vico.

Mlengana ostensibly disregarded Zokwana's instructions to halt the disciplinary proceedings on the grounds that classified documents had to be declassified.

The allegations were not discussed in court. Some of the testimony could touch on the protected disclosures and possibly affect national security. However, what constituted national security was not detailed.

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