‘Combi court’ dept splurges R350k on cameras, media leaks also watched

MEC for community safety Faith Mazibuko at the swearing-in of members of the new Gauteng executive council. Picture: Palesa Dlamini
MEC for community safety Faith Mazibuko at the swearing-in of members of the new Gauteng executive council. Picture: Palesa Dlamini

The Gauteng sports, arts and culture department has defended its expenses for the extra security in the premises after installing a new set of cameras, focusing solely on the office and parking bay of the head of department Monica Newton, at a cost of R350 000.

After a leaked audio clip in which former MEC Faith Mazibuko was heard shouting at her subordinates and demanding “combi courts” so that they can be used for the ANC’s election campaign, the department was also determined to clamp down on media leaks, saying this was in line with a minimum information security standards provision that “the removal of classified documents from office buildings shall be prohibited as far as possible”.

Read: ‘Combi court’ rant lands Mazibuko in sensitivity programme

Department spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana told City Press last week that the camera transaction was meant to strengthen security measures at Surrey House in the Johannesburg central business district, following “reported incidents of loss of assets such as laptops, unauthorised entry in the department, and reported damage to employee’s motor vehicles”.

“The existing camera network of the department did not provide adequate coverage of, for example, the access points to the office of the head of department and the parking garage,” said Ntlokwana.

She said the department was obligated to conduct health and safety assessment on a regular basis and where security gaps and risks are identified reasonable security measures are prioritised, and “this assessment and implementation of securing measures is ongoing and not limited to a specific office bearer”.

On the topic of whether there had been security threats around Newton and chief finance officer Christian Lekalakala and if any police case had been opened, Ntlokwana said the matter “pertained to information security”. She said “the department was not currently aware of circumstances beyond the recent media leak pertaining to [Mazibuko], which was reported … and would require that the provisions of minimum information security standards be implemented”.

Ntlokwana denied allegations from trade union Public and Allied Workers of South Africa (Pawusa) that supply chain processes had not been followed in the procurement of the cameras, saying that the Treasury policy that government obtain three quotations in contracts between R30 000 and R500 000 was not applicable in this case.

“The Treasury practice note referred to relates to cost containment with respect to utilisation of consultants or professional service providers, travel and accommodation expenditure, expenditure on catering, social events, entertainment allowances, corporate branded items, communication and advertising and the hiring of venues and the size of delegations to events, conferences, consultations and meetings”.

Pawusa sent a memorandum of complaints against the department to the director general in the office of the Gauteng premier on May 3, in which the allegations of an unprocedural installation of security cameras was made, according to documents that City Press had seen. The letter called for Newton to be placed on precautionary suspension and disciplined with immediate effect.

The union argued that this expenditure was fruitless and wasteful because the department had tight security at all entrance and exit points that were manned day and night by full-time security guards.

“There are scanners or metal detectors at the main entrance … to ensure that [visitors and staff] are not carrying dangerous weapons or anything illegal, all vehicles of officials and visitors are inspected and searched by security guards upon entering or exiting the building, and no visitor is allowed into the building without being escorted by a security guard”.

“There are already security cameras installed at the lifts in all floors, including the main entrance, the parking entrance, including the entrance door at the office of the head of department,” said national organiser Phineas Malapela, adding that a limited number of staff members had access codes to enter the eighth floor where the head of department and the member of the executive council were based and security personnel at the parking lot.

“There is a security official who is based in the control room on a daily basis who is responsible for monitoring all the security cameras to identify any potential threat that may occur over and above the security personnel placed in strategic points,” Malapela said.

Ntlokwana disagreed, saying “the newly installed cameras were functional, and fulfilled the purpose of enhancing the existing network of cameras which the department utilised as part of its efforts to ensure that employees and visitors have a safe workplace and to secure the physical and information resources of the department”, and therefore could not be deemed fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Documents showed that the transaction for the cameras was concluded in February this year, just a few months before the May 8 elections that saw Premier David Makhura shift Mazibuko from sports, arts and culture and back to her former department of community safety, and Mbali Hlophe taking over as the new MEC.


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