Zokwana tries to stop disciplinary hearings of three officials

Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana. (Jonathan Lestrade, Netwerk24)
Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana. (Jonathan Lestrade, Netwerk24)

Fisheries Minister Senzeni 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 to stop the disciplinary proceedings of three officials.

"We are in essence here to protect those documents," advocate Porchia Long submitted on Zokwana's behalf.

She said the minister himself tried to resolve the matter with director general Mzamo Mlengana because he felt external law enforcement agencies should be dealing with it, but to no avail.

Mlengana was appointed in 2016, suspended in 2017, but returned to his post in 2018 when the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled that the minister had no power to suspend him. 

Read: Public Protector to probe alleged fishy business at fisheries dept

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

Mlengana was reinstated and he instituted disciplinary proceedings against three officials: deputy director general Siphokazi Ndudane, Nazime Parker and Thembalethu Vico.

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

It is Zokwana's belief that the hearings could affect the investigation by the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Public Protector, who he feels is better placed to probe the allegations. 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 revealed.

Also read: Fisheries department rotting from the top

The disciplinary hearings against the three went ahead in spite of Zokwana's written instructions to Mlengana to stop them. 

Advocate Colleen Bailey, who represented the director general, told Judge Mark Sher that Zokwana had filed urgent papers on Tuesday afternoon, and there was no way they would be ready to argue the case by Wednesday.

But Long persisted in trying to obtain an interim order to prevent the use of the documents when the hearing continues on Thursday. 

Sher said the minister had waited until the last minute to make the application and had not given the respondents time to prepare replies. 

He set a timeline for the filing of papers and postponed the application to February 8. 

"It is only fair that the director general have an opportunity to file answering papers," he said.

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