Appointment of new Secretary to Parliament postponed

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Xolile George seen during the State of the Nation Address.
Xolile George seen during the State of the Nation Address.
PHOTO: Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images
  • After a meeting with opposition leaders, Parliament's presiding officers postponed the motion to appoint Xolile George as Secretary to Parliament.
  • The meeting also discussed a physical venue for parliamentary sittings and dealing with the Zondo reports.
  • The secretary position has been vacant since June 2017, and filling it has been a fraught process.

Parliament will have to wait a little bit longer for the appointment of its new secretary after the presiding officers acceded to opposition parties' request to postpone the motion for Xolile George's appointment.

The motion was scheduled to be considered by both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

"The presiding officers' decision follows an engagement they had this afternoon [Wednesday] with leaders of opposition parties, where a wide range of issues, including the administration of Parliament, oversight, processing of the State Capture Commission Report and review of the current hybrid and virtual way of working, were discussed," read a statement from parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

It was the first time National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula met with the opposition leaders since she was elected to the office in August 2021.

"The deferment of the consideration of the motion to a later date would afford the presiding officers and leaders of parliamentary parties sufficient opportunity to further engage on the process," said Mothapo.

"The presiding officers and opposition leaders were mindful of the urgent need for the position of the [secretary] to be filled in the light of it having been vacant for over years, and have agreed that efforts will be made to ensure the appointment process is not unduly delayed."

READ | Salga boss Xolile George to fill vacant secretary of Parliament post

The position has been vacant since former secretary Gengezi Mgidlana was placed on "special leave" in June 2017 after the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) levelled allegations of corruption against him.

Nehawu had accused Mgidlana of receiving an ex gratia payment of R71 000, irregularly awarding himself a study bursary over junior staff, and following improper procurement processes.

In September 2019, Mgidlana was fired after both Houses of Parliament unanimously adopted a motion to this effect.

This after Parliament's presiding officers - then-speaker Thandi Modise and chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Amos Masondo - accepted a disciplinary committee recommendation that Mgidlana should be summarily dismissed after he was found guilty of serious misconduct relating to four of the 13 charges against him.

Penelope "Baby" Tyawa has acted in the position since Mgidlana's suspension.

The process of finding a secretary has been fraught.

George, currently the CEO of the SA Local Government Association, is endorsed by Mapisa-Nqakula and Masondo and received Nehawu's backing.

According to Mothapo, Wednesday's meeting also discussed "in detail the immediate need for Parliament to fully revert to physical business following the termination of the national state of disaster in response to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the fire incident that gutted certain parts of the building of Parliament, including the National Assembly Chamber".

"Parliament is currently exploring various options, i.e. temporary space, for the physical sittings of the National Assembly until the restoration or rebuilding of the gutted building. The meeting was in agreement that this process must be expedited to ensure that Parliament's ability to fulfill its constitutional function, including effective and meaningful oversight, is not compromised or hamstrung."

READ | Parliament's chair of chairs Cedric Frolick referred to ethics committee after Zondo findings

The presiding officers have also "reaffirmed their full commitment to ensuring that Parliament implement the remedial actions, and conducts necessary oversight over the executive's implementation of its plan of action, emanating from the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector, including organs of state".

Parliament will further seek independent legal expert opinion to strengthen its processing of the report.

After a legal opinion was on Mapisa-Nqakula's desk for almost two months, Parliament acted upon it and referred current MPs implicated by the Zondo Commission - House chairperson Cedric Frolick and ANC MP in the NCOP Winnie Ngwenya - to the ethics committee.

A follow-up meeting will be held on Tuesday.

"The presiding officers expressed appreciation for the wisdom, quality engagement and guidance provided by the meeting," said Mothapo.

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