In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed on the report alleging sexual misconduct against Mr Albert Fritz, a former Member of the Executive Council (MEC) of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP).
Adv Jennifer Williams said she had been appointed by the Premier to determine the credibility of the rumours he had heard and had found sufficient credibility regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse, and strong evidence of Mr Fritz creating an environment conducive to sexual harassment, or alternatively, taking advantage of young women sexually. The allegations ranged over a number of years with a number of incidents. Many of the complainants had provided images and videos. Mr Fritz had been provided with a detailed report and been given the opportunity to respond to the allegations. In the findings of the report, it was determined that the allegations did have merit because the defence had not provided a substantive response to the allegations.
Members raised concerns that the Committee had not received the detailed report and questioned the entire process. They suggested that because taxpayers' money was involved, the Committee needed to be provided with a detailed cost analysis of the investigation. They were in agreement that the names of the complainants should remain confidential because they wanted to allow all victims of gender-based violence to come forward.
The Committee highlighted Mr Fritz's comments reported in the media that the allegations were politically motivated, and Members requested access to the full report to evaluate the credibility of the allegations. They raised concerns about policy discrepancies, pointing out that a chief director in the WCPP who was currently accused in a court of law of sexual assault, was still in office. They asked Adv Williams, who claimed she had been subjected to instances of intimidation, to name those responsible because it was a very serious issue.
Premier Alan Winde explained how he had meticulously followed a process to ensure that it was fair to both Mr Fritz and the complainants. He denied that the investigation was politically motivated, and said the process was conducted in a manner in which gender-based violence was dealt with decisively, and that people had been given a proper platform to deal with this, and there were consequences.
A Member said the Committee was being informed by the media that the legal team of Mr Fritz never had the opportunity to question the complainants and was disputing the facts. The media inferred that it was a one-sided story, and the Committee did not know all the facts. Mr Fritz had indicated that it was ‘political assassination.’ If he was cleared in a review of the report, what would the next step be?
The Committee commended the work of the Premier and Department in handling the matter sensitively and swiftly. The Premier was also asked how the Department planned to strengthen its GBV policies.
It was agreed that the Chairperson would draft a list of recommendations and send it to the Committee. This was because the Committee had to wait on the legal opinion before finalising the resolutions.
The Chairperson welcomed and thanked everyone who was present in the meeting at such short notice. The meeting had been called after the Committee received the report less than 24 hours ago.
He said that at the first meeting held by the Committee, a physical fight nearly took place. Since then, the Committee had successfully addressed the high crime rate. In the latest quarterly crime statistics, the murder rate had decreased. This indicated how well the Committee worked to create safer places and hold its Executive Officers (EOs) to account.
Since the suspension of the former Member of the Executive Council (MEC), Mr Albert Fritz, he had engaged with the Premier of the Western Cape (WC). He had shared all the information with the Committee and indicated that a meeting would be held once the Premier received the report against Mr Fritz. The reason why this urgent meeting had been called was that the Premier had received the report. The Committee and the Office of the Premier took its oversight work very seriously.
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) raised a point of order and questioned the manner in which the meeting would proceed. The Committee had received a descriptive summary and conclusion of the report against Mr Fritz. Taxpayers’ money had been spent on this report, and he expressed his disappointment that the Committee had not received the full report. He requested that the Committee be provided with the full report, and said that the names could remain confidential.
The Chairperson noted the request and said that it would be discussed during the actions and recommendation section. The Premier would also respond to the request made by Mr Dugmore.
Ms P Lekker (ANC) said that the Committee would always be provided a full report and a summary of the report. The request made by Mr Dugmore could not be discussed under the actions and recommendations section. This section was for any unsatisfactory answers or any observations made by the Committee on the report itself. She asked the Chairperson how he came to his decision and to provide clarity on how the Committee would engage constructively based on a summary of the report.
Mr P Marais (FF+) indicated his confusion about the report and said the Premier had the ability to choose members of his Cabinet and could fire the Cabinet member without giving the Committee all the details. Keeping the names of the accusers confidential was not executing justice fairly. He asked if the requests about the report would be adhered to because if the Committee received the full report without the accusers’ names in the report, it would be of no value. The report would lack credibility if the names were kept a secret.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) said that he was not aware of the summary of the report -- the Committee had received it too late. He agreed that the names of the accusers could remain confidential but it was unfair that the Committee did not receive the full report. It was a serious matter because Mr Fritz had resigned from the DA. The Premier had received the report on 27 February and had had sufficient time to send the Committee the full report.
Ms D Baartman (DA) stated that secondary victimisation was a daily occurrence. She asked the legal team of the Premier to indicate why the Committee had not received the full report. Under normal circumstances, a member of the legislature could be referred to a Conduct Committee (CC). In the CC everything was recorded and remained confidential until a decision was made. She then asked the legal team if the rights of the defendant and plaintiff must still be protected, considering that Mr Fritz was no longer a member and that a decision had been made on the case.
The Chairperson indicated that Members should not raise points that had already been raised. He alluded to rule 42 and said that he needed to maintain order. The Committee would have the opportunity to engage with the Premier on the report. He replied to the concerns of Ms Lekker, saying that under each part of the agenda there was a section for the Committee's recommendations.
Mr M Kama (ANC) agreed with Ms Lekker’s point and said that the Chairperson had not responded fully to the question. The Premier must brief the Committee on the report against Mr Fritz. The challenge that the Committee faced was that it was being briefed on a report that was not in its full extent. The document sent to the Committee was a high-level summary of the report. He agreed with Mr Dugmore about the taxpayers' money and said that he did not want the Committee to reconvene when it received the full report and found discrepancies in it. This was the main issue -- not determining whether the Premier should reverse his decision about firing Mr Fritz.
The Chairperson said that Mr Kama had repeated the points raised by other Members.
Mr Kama replied that he needed clarity on the situation because the Committee was being briefed on a report it received a summary on.
Ms Lekker said the Chairperson had indicated that the meeting was taking place less than 24 hours after the report was released and this was not true, because the report was released on 27 February. She referred to the Chairperson’s comments about maintaining order and said that he was emotionally blackmailing the Committee. The Committee had the right to conduct its oversight work correctly. She then raised concerns about item two of the meeting’s agenda.
The Chairperson replied to Ms Lekker that this was not the case because the Committee would be able to engage with the Premier on the report. He reiterated the point that the urgent meeting had been called in order for the Premier to brief the Committee on the procedures he had taken since the suspension of Mr Fritz on 23 January. He had noted all the remarks the Members had made, and said that he would ensure that the best steps were taken to move in the meeting and to ensure that the Committee fulfilled its mandate to make communities safer.
Ms L Botha (DA) agreed with the Chairperson.
Mr Alan Winde, Premier of the Western Cape (WC), said he would respond to any questions the Members may have regarding the process he undertook to suspend and then fire the former MEC. He was happy to brief the Committee on the report because it needed to conduct its oversight work. However, this was not a court of law to determine what took place in the case. He hoped that the court of law would be the next step in the proceedings of the case.
Gender-based violence (GBV) was a big issue in the country, and everyone would agree on this. Abused women were petrified to come forward, and if these women were seeing how the Committee wanted all the details of the incident, these women would never come forward. It was not easy to come forward if abused women consider that at some stage there would be a hectic court case, with cross-examination from lawyers. He questioned the Committee's request to obtain the full details of the report. Because of what he had heard, he would keep the names of the victims confidential. The victims did not want to be named in Parliament because of the fear that journalists would want to contact the victims. To successfully deal with GBV, the government needed to protect the victims who wanted to come forward.
He replied to Ms Baartman’s question on a closed meeting, that he did not want to provide the Committee with all the details because it was not the platform to do so. From a legal standpoint, he would discuss what could be tabled to the Committee. He was involved in the initial stages of the interviews with two victims and had allowed a legal representative to conduct the interviews with all six victims.
He referred to the comments of Mr Marais and said that he did not have all the details of the interviews, but the information in the report was enough to make a decision. It was his responsibility to determine if a Member was fit enough to serve on the Cabinet and to ensure when a Member was removed, the correct process was followed. He drew on the example where the President had fired a MEC and said what enabled an official to make such a decision. The case must still be handled in a court of law, but he believed that he had sufficient evidence to make a decision on the issue. He indicated that the legal team would reply to the request of the Committee to receive the full report without the victim’s names.
Confidentiality of report
Adv Jennifer Williams, a representative of the Cape Bar, said that she understood the unusual circumstances of the meeting, and requested that the Committee handle the issue sensitively. The victims and Mr Fritz were probably watching the meeting online. The rights of Mr Fritz and the victims needed to be protected, and she had been appointed by the Premier to determine the credibility of the rumours he had heard. The rights of the witnesses and the Committee needed to be considered because it represented the citizens and would not want to violate the rights of everybody involved in the case.
She said she would explain the process taken in the case because it would provide the Committee with clarity on why a large part of the report was confidential. The complainants had come forward and expressed the fear of reprisals, reputational damage and job security. Concerns had been raised about the entire process and determining if the complainants would come forward. She had received messages from different members of political parties and factions, intimidating her to not proceed with the case. Because of this, it was very difficult for the complainants to come forward.
The complainants had agreed to come forward on condition that their versions remained confidential. She was faced with the dilemma that Mr Fritz could not respond to unknown allegations, because it would not be fair. She had approached the complainants again on the matter and obtained their consent because she wanted to follow an approach that empowered women. The complainants provided her with a set of allegations that ranged from February 2018 to February 2021.
The next step she took was to provide Mr Fritz with a detailed report on the allegations. The complainants gave consent to allow the details of the report to be given only to Mr Fritz and the Premier. This was done to allow the legal team of Mr Fritz to respond to the allegations.
She highlighted the comments of the Premier and said that the Committee was not a court of law and that the current engagement was a fact-finding mission to establish if the allegations made were credible or must be disregarded. The legal team of Mr Fritz had requested information about the time frames of the allegations and the venues they took place in. She had sent these details to the legal team. It was not necessary that the exact details of the incidents be disclosed in the meeting. If the Committee analysed the time frames of the incidents, they would note the work trips during which the allegations occurred, because the Ministry was small in nature.
The allegations against Mr Fritz ranged from sexual comments, inappropriate touching, attempts to kiss without consent, and sexual intercourse. The exact nature of the allegations would give up the identity and would impact any criminal charges in the future. Disclosing all the details would jeopardise the case of the complainants and the defence of Mr Fritz. It would also complicate the parallel disciplinary hearing against other officials in the Department. She had wanted to engage with the officials, but this was declined because of the impact it would have had on their disciplinary hearings. Mr Fritz had provided the statements from the officials, and she had interviewed the witnesses he had recommended.
She had compiled a report that referred to her terms of reference, and the bulk of the report was a summary of evidence. The evidence was comprised of the four primary complainants and witnesses who corroborated the allegations of the complainants. Some of the witnesses were interviewed for factual disputes that could be easily resolved, such as facts about the venue. The other witnesses were interviewed to either corroborate the versions of the complainants or Mr Fritz.
Adv Williams said the nature of the sexual allegations was mainly a ‘he said, she said’ scenario. When this was the case, one needed to weigh the credibility of the allegations. It was important to release the conclusion of the report in order for the Committee to assess how she had analysed the allegations and her findings. The conclusion was not a finding of guilt on a balance of probability. It was not a court of law, and she reiterated that the report was a fact-finding mission and the weighing of evidence like videos and WhatsApp messages that were provided by Mr Fritz and the complainants on a confidential basis.
She said that in her findings, there was sufficient evidence that the allegations made were credible and that they could not be dismissed. The defence had not substantively addressed the nature of the allegations. She disagreed that Mr Fritz was not provided with the detailed report. She also determined that the claims of the defence -- that the allegations were politically motivated -- were ungrounded because of the time period of the complaints and logistics of the number of people who would have to provide the same story.
She hoped the Committee was satisfied with her explanation because it needed to weigh the legal implications of obtaining the full report. It was not a public report, because it pertained to private individuals who had disclosed personal details on condition that it remained confidential. If the report was made public it would have reputational ramifications, and would also impact Mr Fritz being litigated in the future.
The Chairperson drew the Committee's attention to rule 42 and indicated that when a Member persisted in irrelevance or repetition of arguments, the presiding officer may call attention to the conduct of the Member and may direct the Member to stop. He highlighted this because of his recommendation to move forward. The Members were aware that the Committee was always open to debates and to be robust in its engagements.
Mr Dugmore noted the rules the Chairperson had mentioned and said that the Chairperson must not get defensive because it was an open platform with two Standing Committees. It was not about wanting salacious details, because he agreed with the Premier that GBV was a big issue. He raised concerns about what facilitated GBV in the government. A chief director in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP) who was currently accused in a court of law of sexual assault, was still in office. He wanted to know the details of how the process had been facilitated and made an example of it being facilitated through bodyguards, MEC staff, Heads of Departments (HODs), and how these facilitators were recruited. The Committee could not underestimate how the processes occurred.
He asked the legal team if the Committee could submit an application to receive the full report, and if it would be successful. How many pages was the full unedited report which included all the affidavits and evidence? He highlighted that Adv Williams had indicated that she had been intimidated by various factions, and asked her to name the members of the different political parties because it was a serious issue. He wanted her to provide clarity on whether she had formally received a letter regarding her terms of reference from the Premier. He asked her to provide the Committee with the letter and to provide clarity on what disciplinary action was currently taking place against the Department and the MEC's staff.
Mr Christians said that the Committee was being informed by the media that the legal team of Mr Fritz never had the opportunity to question the complainants and was disputing the facts. The media inferred that it was a one-sided story, and the Committee did not know all the facts. Mr Fritz had indicated that it was ‘political assassination,’ and that he had conducted himself in a dignified manner. Based on the accusations in the report, the Committee did not know which side of the story was true. He asked Adv Williams if she laid had charges against the members who had threatened her, and if she had informed the Premier.
Mr S August (GOOD) agreed with the Premier and said that the names of the victims must remain confidential because this would allow other GBV victims to come forward. He highlighted the Advocate’s comments about the time frames between 2018 and 2021. He asked how long the Premier had known about the allegations and if the matter had been taken to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). If the Premier had known about the allegations, why had he taken so long to act on them?
Mr Marais said that many of the Members wanted to protect the accusers, but according to the ‘rule of law,’ the accused must know who accused him. Mr Fritz had said his legal team was reviewing the case. He asked Adv Williams that if Mr Fritz won the review, would an injustice not have occurred? This did not mean that Mr Fritz would be reinstated because that remained the choice of the Premier. He asked her that if Mr Fritz decided to sue the accusers, would the Department cover the legal costs or would the accusers be left to defend themselves. He asked her if Mr Fritz's legal team had intimidated her, or if the accusers’ representatives had intimidated her to rule in the accusers’ favour. This was very important because the office of the Premier would be called a ‘pseudo’.... (Mr Marais was stopped from making further comments because of time constraints).
Ms Botha respected the confidentiality of the accusers because it would allow other victims of GBV to come forward. The report indicated that Mr Fritz had been provided with a summary of the allegations. She asked if the summary contained the name of the complainants. She highlighted the section of the report that referred to the alleged misconduct and alcohol abuse that occurred on work trips. She asked if the accommodation on the work trips was paid for by the Ministry or the Department.
Ms Lekker said that it was clear that some political parties have more information than others in the WCPP. She was not a ‘sangoma,’ but the DA had more information about the case. She commented that the Committee was dealing with the matter on the grounds of probabilities because it was not a court of law. There were certain issues that the Committee could not deal with because the case had not appeared in court yet. She asked if any of the accusers were below the age of 21 and if they were still working in the Department of the former MEC. In which suburbs had the accusers been recruited, because the accusers had been recruited for different constituencies? Had the accusers approached the Premier, or had they been referred to him?
Mr Kama added to Mr Dugmore’s question and said Adv Williams must identify the officials that had threatened her. He referred to the proceedings of the matter and highlighted the statement the Premier had made on 31 January, when he had indicated that he would base his decision on the findings of the report. He asked what the Premier’s standpoint from a point of law was at that stage. He requested clarity on the matter and referred to Act 13 of 2021 -- the Criminal Law and Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act (CLSORMAA) -- that talked to sexual intimidation. The Act broadened the definition of ‘vulnerable groups,’ and placed an obligation on individuals who were aware of the offences. (Because of time constraints, the Member was stopped from making any further comments).
Mr M Xego (EFF) asked the Premier what he had done about the threats made against Adv Williams. Had the accusers benefited unfairly from the proceedings, and would the office of the Premier cover the legal costs of the accusers in a court of law?
The Chairperson asked for an update of the four officials mentioned in the report.
Mr Nico Boshoff, Director: Legal Advisory Services (Social Cluster), Department of the Premier, said that the Committee needed to understand that Adv Williams had been briefed by the state attorney’s office for a specific assignment. She was not appointed to legally advise the Premier.
He replied to the questions on the firing of Mr Fritz, and said that firing only afforded protection within the act, where the information was sought in furtherance of a right of an individual or juristic person.
He replied to the question on getting access to the full report and said that the information officer (IO) was empowered by the act to deny access to information, where that information would disclose personal information about the complainants. The IO could also refuse access to information, where the information could undermine legal proceedings.
He replied to Mr Kama’s comments about the CLSORMAA, that the complainants did have a say in the proceedings. The Department could not decide that the complainants must go to the police because the complainants may not want to be cross-examined in a criminal case.
With regard to supporting the complainants, the Department was looking into its internal policies as to how it could assist the complainants legally.
He replied to the question of Mr Fritz reviewing and said that currently there was no judicial precedent for the tests that might apply to these types of decisions. The Department did not know if rule 53 would apply to the Premier’s decision, and it was not clear if Mr Fritz would review the decision or the report itself. The legal team would advise the Premier on the way forward once it had clarity on what Mr Fritz would review. He could not determine if an injustice had been served on him because that would depend on the findings of the court. He confirmed that Mr Fritz had been afforded a fair process, and the report was a product of the findings. The Premier had based his decision on the report's findings.
Adv Williams replied to the question on the threats and said the Committee must not get distracted by it because she had not been intimidated by it. The messages had indicated that the case was out of her jurisdiction and that it was a police matter. She would provide the Committee with the numbers she had received the messages from. When one released information to the public, you no longer had control of what would happen.
She replied to the question about the age of the accusers and their employment and said that one of the accusers was below the age of 21, and some of the accusers were still in the employ of the government. She did not know which suburbs the accusers had been recruited from. She confirmed that the report given to Mr Fritz did identify the names of the accusers and the exact details of the allegations.
She said the report contained 81 pages. The summary of evidence was found on pages 11 to 42, and the responses of Mr Fritz were found on pages 42 to 54. The legal framework and analysis from pages 58 to 62 were related largely to sexual harassment and misconduct. These pages also talked to ‘grooming,’ to inform the decision-maker, and the actual analysis of evidence was found on pages 62 to 78. These pages refer to the ‘defences’ raised by Mr Fritz, and there was a one-page conclusion. The annexure contained statements, newspaper articles and written responses from Mr Fritz. It also contained emails, WhatsApp messages, alcohol found at the venues and photographs of the venues where the allegations took place. The annexures did not contain any affidavits.
Referring to the question on the payment for accommodation, she said the terms of reference did not include any financial aspects. She confirmed that some of the incidents had occurred on work trips, but she could not confirm if the government programmes paid for them.
The Chairperson asked Adv Williams to elaborate on the terms of reference she received.
She replied that her terms of reference required her to assess the factual correctness of the allegations against Mr Fritz, and to produce a report which could inform a reasonable, rational opinion that could inform the Premier as to whether the allegations made had sufficient credibility for the Premier to dismiss Mr Fritz from the provincial Cabinet. She had been given the names of five witnesses and got the witnesses’ consent to start proceedings again and to gather evidence for the report.
Premier Winde replied to the question as to how long he knew about the allegations and said he had first heard about the allegations in November 2021. He had received a phone call from a third party regarding the allegations and indicated that this was not the correct procedure. He then requested that the third party urge the actual person to come forward. The complainant needed to meet with her legal team so that he could have the allegations in writing. The complainant had then indicated that there were more complainants. At the time of meeting the complainants, he had said he would deal with the allegations with a legal team. The legal teams were involved in the entire process, and from 14 to 21 November 2021, it had met with four female complainants and two males who had corroborated the allegations. He reiterated that he had met with the first two complainants and been advised by the legal team to excuse himself from the engagements with the other two complainants.
The legal team had continued the engagements with the complainants and on 22 November, it compiled the allegations, and on 23 November he had met with the legal team and Mr Fritz. He told Mr Fritz about the serious allegations and that he would investigate them, and that he had decided to suspend him in order to test the allegations. Mr Fritz had agreed that he would comply with the proceedings and would respond to the allegations accordingly.
The Premier had then engaged with the Director-General (DG) and the Head of Department (HOD). He had to ensure that people in the Department were involved because some of the alleged events had taken place on work trips. At the same time, the administration of the Department had suspended four officials in the Department because he did not have the power to suspend the officials. He advised the legal team to contact the state attorney's office to get an independent investigator because if he conducted the investigation it would be viewed as an unfair process. It was at this point that Adv Williams had been appointed. He had the first engagement with Adv Williams and had briefed her about the allegations and what he had found. She had taken longer than 14 days to compile the report because she had to interview a total of 18 people.
There were two processes in the report. The first was the allegations against a MEC that he had appointed. From the report, he was comfortable with the decision to remove Mr Fritz from his Cabinet. The second process related to what he did with the report after dismissing Mr Fritz. He replied to the question on the identities of the complainants, that he did not want to disclose their names. He did not know all the names of the people who had been interviewed. Adv Williams had indicated that one of the complainants had said she could be named to the Premier, but he did not want the names. He needed to ensure that the case proceeded to a court of law, which was the next phase of the process. He commended the complainant for the bravery she displayed in coming forward.
He replied to the question about the support provided to complainants, saying that the Department offered psycho-social support to the complaints. The Department was reviewing its internal policies to determine how it could help complainants legally, because some of the complainants were not employed by the Department. The legal team had connected the complainants with non-governmental organisations (NGO) that support the victims of GBV.
He replied to some Committee Members' comments made publicly that they had already known about the allegations before his involvement in November, and said that if they already knew about the allegations, why had they not contacted him with the details? The Members had to come forward with details about the case, because the Department did not want someone with such serious allegations, who was employed to look after the safety of people, in office. He urged Members to provide details of the case to the Provincial Police Commissioner (PPC) if they were serious about dealing with the issue.
He said that if Mr Fritz succeeded in the review, he would then make a decision based on his suitability to serve in the Cabinet. The process needed to ensure that everything was conducted fairly, and Adv Williams had indicated that the legal team of Mr A Fritz had the opportunity to respond to the allegations. Mr Fritz did have the right to challenge the decision and must follow the correct procedures. He believed in due process, that he made the correct decision, and he had to ensure the correct procedure was followed because he did not believe the allegations he had heard against a colleague he had worked with for many years.
He replied to the question on accommodation, saying that it was part of the secondary processes in getting the specific details of who paid for what, and that was why four officials were currently suspended. The DG, HOD and the legal team were currently investigating this.
He replied to Mr Kama’s comments and said it was a point he had raised with Adv Williams. There was a case document open, but it needed substance. The next stage was for the complainants to lay a formal criminal charge -- it was up to the complainants, and the Department would assist where it could. It was very difficult for the complainants because they wanted to end the process, but the Department had given an assurance that it would protect them. He urged the Committee to ensure the complainants were protected. The Department must obtain the consent of the complainant before it gave the report to the police.
Dr Harry Malila, Director General, Office of the Premier, replied to the question on accommodation and said it formed part of a separate investigation. He would engage with all the relevant departments to get the process underway. Any ministry was part of a department, and the expenditure incurred would be reflected in that department. He confirmed that the investigations were ongoing and the four officials would remain on precautionary suspension. The entire process was not static, because there were a number of individuals that had to be interviewed. The investigations were being conducted in terms of the Western Cape government policy because the officials were employed in terms of the Public Service Act (PSA). Once the investigations were completed, he planned to complete all the processes within the month of March.
Adv Yashina Pillay, Chief Director: Secretariat for Safety & Security, WCPP, said that in the Department of Community Safety (DCS) there was a zero-tolerance policy for any act of wrongdoing or irregularity. The internal control unit (ICU) had been working closely with Provincial Forensic Security (PFS) to investigate the accommodation claims and the misuse of government vehicles. The information gathered would be sent to Employee Relations for further review.
Ms Lekker raised a point of order, saying that the Premier had misinterpreted her comments. She had not said she had information and provided clarity on what she had said, which was that Members of the DA had more information than other Members from the different political parties in the Committee.
Ms Baartman said that if Ms Lekker had information about the case, or knew of individuals that had information about the case, she must provide the information to the conduct committee. She wanted the Chairperson to guide the Committee on the matter because if it involved a Member of this House, it was a very serious allegation.
Ms Lekker indicated that Ms Baartman must not reference her on the point of order she raised.
(Ms Lekker was muted to allow Ms Baartman to proceed).
The Chairperson requested that Ms Lekker provide clarity on the comments she had made.
Ms Lekker said replied that she had been misinterpreted and that it was clear in the meeting that the DA Members had more information than other Members of the Committee. She made reference to the comments of Ms Botha, that more witnesses would come forward. She did not have any information and asked the Chairperson to refer to the answers of the Premier and the advocates.
The Chairperson stated for the record that Ms Lekker had provided clarity, and had not made an allegation to any Member of the Committee. He added that Ms Botha’s comments were in light of other victims of GBV that had to come forward, and were not specifically linked to the report against Mr Fritz.
Mr Christians said that he did not understand why the complainants had approached the Premier and not the police. He pointed out that the WCPP was not a court of law, and asked what the costs of the investigation were. It would be cheaper to conduct the fact-finding mission in the Premier’s Department, and in this case, the taxpayers’ money had not been spent well. He failed to understand why pictures of alcohol were in the annexures of the report and asked if this was not a set-up, because it would mean that the pictures were taken at the time. He failed to understand why the complainants had come forward only recently if the allegations dated back to 2018. He asked the Premier to explain how the report had come to include the pictures because someone in the Department must have known about the incident. He reiterated that the Premier must provide the Committee with the full report, leaving out the names of the complainants.
Mr August said that the Premier had not replied to his question on the involvement of the CCMA. Adv Williams had indicated that some of the complainants no longer worked for the departments. He asked if the complainants were employed by the provincial legislature, and why the contracts of the complainants had been terminated. He asked why the contracts were not extended, and if the complainants were too scared or victimised to extend the contracts. Would the provincial legislature be able to re-employ the complainants?
Mr Kama said that he agreed with the Premier that the victims of GBV must be protected, but his question was not answered fully. He referred to the Act that was influenced by resolutions of a summit with different organisations that addressed the protection of GBV victims. He referred to Section 54 of the CLSORMAA, and asked if the Premier had been advised in terms of the Act. It was important to note that the Premier could be obligated to report the incident to the police because he was in possession of information regarding sexual misconduct.
Mr Dugmore said that Adv Williams had used the words ‘intimidation and factions.’ He asked her to describe the conversations she had with the ‘intimidators,’ how many calls she had received, and if the callers had identified themselves. He asked her to elaborate on what she meant by saying ‘factions.’ He asked the Premier who the third party was that had initiated the process, and what the role of Mr JP Smith (Mayoral Committee Member) in the proceedings was. He wanted the Premier to confirm that the Premier did not hear of any rumour or allegations against Mr Fritz before November 2021. He said the DG had reported that four officials had been suspended, and asked why an official who had been criminally charged was still in office. The Committee must review the provincial GBV policies because the Committee wanted consistency across all its policies.
Ms Lekker asked how the affidavits from the complainants had been circulated to the relevant stakeholders. How many copies were made and who received them, because they contained confidential information. She asked where the complainants had been interviewed because it was important for the Committee to determine if the complainants were safe at all times.
Ms Baartman said that the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) had been implemented, and asked Adv Williams what impact it had on the case. It was important to note that a lot of personal information had been shared in the case. She asked what the implications of labour relations were because there was a difference between dealing with officials in terms of labour legislation and officials that were appointed in terms of the constitution. She asked Adv Williams if the release of specific information would have legal implications for Mr Fritz or the complainants. Did the case have to be taken up in a court of law, and was the WCPP obligated to protect the information of the complainants? She asked the Premier what the Western Cape (WC) government could do in the future to respond swiftly to complainants who came forward.
Ms M Maseko (DA) replied to the comments of Mr Christians and said no costs must be attached to victims of GBV. The current case acted as a framework in which the government needed to move forward, and it would inform complainants that they could come forward knowing that they would be protected. In the current pandemic, the government must do everything to protect GBV victims at all costs, because too many people were dying and committing suicide because of what they faced. She respected all of her colleagues but found it disturbing that the men in the Committee were getting technical about the case and not handling the GBV issue with more sensitivity.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) raised a point of order on Ms Maseko's comments inferring that the men in the Committee were getting technical and not handling the issue of GBV sensitively. He asked her to elaborate on this.
The Chairperson noted the point of order and said that he did not want the comments made by Ms Maseko to disrupt the flow of the meeting. The Committee was currently dealing with a serious matter, and he believed that all the Members were committed to fighting GBV.
Mr Xego said that his question had not been answered. He added to the question and asked if the victims were beneficiaries of jobs from the former MEC, and what the Premier had done about the intimidation allegations made by Adv Williams.
Mr Marais said that the name of "JP" came up a lot, and he could be seen as a person who could be elevated from a safety official at a metro level to a provincial level. The Premier had not answered the question of Mr Dugmore yet. He quoted from Julius Caeser, that ‘as he was valiant I honour him, but as he was ambitious I slew him’. The Premier should indicate who the bearer of bad news had been, and if it had been "Mr JP."
The Chairperson interjected and said that the Premier had not had an opportunity to respond to the question. Mr Marais was also questioning the character of an official who was not present to defend himself. He wanted the Committee to be cautious with its comments.
Mr Marais indicated that many individuals' initials had the letters JP, and he had not referred to a specific JP. He asked if it was true that the third party who had initiated the investigation was JP. He asked Adv Williams who had intimidated her, and if it had had any impact on the conclusion of the report.
Ms Lekker raised a point of order regarding the ruling the Chairperson had made on the comment of Mr Marais. The Chairperson had no grounds to make the ruling because JP was not a member of the WCPP.
The Chairperson noted the point of order and said he had made the ruling in order to move forward because the Committee wanted the Premier to respond to the questions. He did not want the flow of the meeting to be disturbed due to certain comments.
Mr Dugmore raised a point of order to say that the meeting was at the stage to follow up on questions that had not been responded to. The question on where the complainants had been recruited was not answered, because there was a lot of speculation that the complainants came from Mitchells Plain. He indicated that he had referred to ‘JP Smith’ -- the member who said that he had an honours degree from Stellenbosch University, but did not.
Mr Sayed commented that the Committee was trying to provide clarity on its questions in order that the discussions and responses it got could contribute to ensuring that this matter was dealt with correctly.
Premier Winde replied to the question on why the complainants approached him and said he had no idea why he had been approached. It was a good question, but he could not answer it.
Regarding the costs, the Committee would receive the total costs incurred at the end of the entire process. The best option was to recruit an independent investigator, and not within the Department, to ensure that the entire process was fair and not political.
He replied to the question as to why he did not know about the complaints that came forward in 2021 and said it was difficult for a subordinate who was in a power relationship to come forward. The two complainants had been able to come forward because they were no longer in the employment of their respective departments. The current system was problematic because a lot of victims did not come forward.
Replying to the question on the CCMA, he said he was not aware of any cases that had been brought to the CCMA.
Regarding the question on the complainants’ employment, he said that two of the women still worked in their respective departments, and the other two women were no longer employed by the department, and their contracts were not terminated. The two that were currently employed by the Department were still petrified because it was difficult to come forward if one was still in the work environment.
He replied to the comments of Mr Kama on Section 54 of the CLSORMAA, saying that he understood his obligation. This was the reason why he would engage with the complainants to obtain their consent to provide the police with the information in the report.
He confirmed that JP Smith was the third party that had contacted him. Mr Smith had contacted him with the allegations, and he had replied that the complainant must provide him with the details of the allegations in writing. He reiterated again that he had no prior knowledge about the allegations before 14 November 2021.
He replied to the question on affidavits and said he did not have a copy, and that the legal team was in possession of the affidavits.
Regarding the legal support and the venues of the interviews, he said the complainants were provided with legal support from the start, and the interviews took place in a safe environment where the complainants were not seen.
In response to the question of Ms Baartman, he said the questions that needed to be asked were why the complainants had not gone to the police or the GBV champion in the department. Every official in the legislature needed to apply their minds to how the legislature could regulate the environment regarding GBV incidents.
Regarding the intimidation of Adv Williams, he was not aware of it.
He did not know if the complainants had been awarded jobs unfairly.
He replied to the comments on political assassination, saying this was not the case when many complainants had come forward. He had not allowed anything to influence the entire process.
A representative of the legal team indicated that Section 54 of the CLSORMAA applied only to minors and people with mental disabilities.
Adv Williams replied to the issue raised about intimidation and said she received only text messages and that they did not influence the findings of the report because of her experience. The calls that she said she had received had been from other advocates, who had accidentally received intimidation messages meant for her. She had blocked the numbers. She provided clarity on the matter by saying that she did not know which political parties the people belonged to.
She said the photographs of venues were not a conspiracy. The photographs were taken recently and had been included to resolve factual disputes in order to corroborate the versions of the complainants and Mr Fritz. The photographs of alcohol were for the individuals to document the events that had taken place. This was also done to provide Mr Fritz with clarity as to where the alleged events had occurred.
Mr Dugmore said that the question regarding policies had not been answered. The Premier had indicated that legislators must be consistent with their policies. He said that Mr Fritz was removed from office and there were currently four officials suspended, yet Mr Payne (referring to the alleged sexual assault case against Western Cape traffic chief, Mr Farrel Payne) who was facing criminal charges was still in office. This would mean that there was a policy discrepancy.
Mr Sayed raised a point of order that the Chairperson could not allow the Premier and advocates to respond, and then there was no time for follow-up questions. This was a serious matter and the Committee could not be constrained by time.
The Chairperson noted the point of order and said that any follow-up questions would be submitted to the Premier, to which he would respond in writing.
Mr Marais thanked the Premier for the responses and said that the Committee had been given the opportunity for questions. The next step in the process was not the mandate of the Committee, but the mandate of the justice system.
Mr Sayed asked Adv Williams on what basis she made her allegation that the intimidation messages came from members of different political parties. He asked for clarity as to why a complainant in the Provincial Department would go to Mr Smith with the allegations, and how long Mr Smith had known about them. Had the Premier acted alone and not been informed by the leadership of the DA?
Mr Christians said that the Committee was handling the matter sensitively, and because it was a GBV issue, it wanted to ensure that the correct processes were followed.
Mr Dugmore requested that all the questions the Committee could not ask be submitted in writing. The Premier had indicated that he had been angry and that this was the first step in the campaign against GBV. He asked the Premier what the current shortcomings of the GBV policies were, and what the Department planned to do about it.
Ms Maseko commended the way the Premier and the support staff had handled the matter. She requested that the Premier continue to update the Committee until the case appeared in a court of law. The Department must amend the framework of the GBV policies so that such incidents did not recur.
Ms Baartman said she was aware that the legislation around GBV needed to be improved. In America, its legislation allowed the whistle-blowers of corruption to take government officials to court and recover the stolen money. It might not be the same as the case it was currently dealing with, but some principles could be applied to the current case. She commended the Premier for the work done and for reassuring the public that the matter had been dealt with.
Ms Lekker said that the Premier had not provided a detailed response to her question. She had asked for a specific area where the complainants were recruited from.
Mr Kama said that there was confusion because he had referred to the newly amended Act 13 of 2021, the CLSORMAA. Previously, the definition of the vulnerable group had included only minors and people with disabilities, but it had been broadened to include women below the age of 25. He asked the legal team to elaborate on its response.
Mr Xego said that he failed to understand how the Committee could ‘underplay’ the threats made to Adv Williams. He highlighted her response and said that a young and inexperienced advocate might have to deal with the next case. It was for this reason that the Committee must respond swiftly to the allegations when she provided her written response to the Committee.
Ms Botha thanked the Premier and the DG for allowing the Committee to ask the tough questions because it needed to be done. The Committee had learned a lot from this case, and she commended the work that the Premier and support staff had done.
Adv Williams provided clarity on her response when she had said that the intimidators could have been from different political parties, but she did not know which political party they belonged to. She commended the Committee for treating the case with such urgency.
Premier Winde replied to Mr Sayed’s question and said that the person who had approached Mr JP Smith was not in the provincial government.
Regarding the question on the DA leadership, nobody had advised him and he had acted alone. The DA had received a summary of the report when it was publicly announced by the media.
Mr Dugmore interjected and said that the question pertained to when the Premier had initially heard about the allegations, and if he had advised the DA leadership.
Premier Winde replied that he had not -- he had briefed the DA leadership only when he suspended Mr Fritz. There had been no political involvement in the process because he took his job and GBV seriously. He had expressed his anger and disappointment when he heard about the allegations against a colleague.
He did not know where the complainants had been recruited from, and it had not been part of the investigation.
He knew the Committee wanted details of the entire process. The first thing that needed to be done was to launch an investigation into the allegations made and to give Mr Fritz a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations. There were many stories about individuals being victimised, and it was for this reason the entire process had to be fair. He had needed to apply his mind, and he had done so when the report was given to him. Based on the allegations and responses of Mr Fritz to the allegations, the correct decision had been made to remove him from the Cabinet. The second component of the process was to ensure that justice was served.
He said that the citizens of the province must think about protecting the victims because it was unacceptable when journalists phone each member in the department for information. He also urged all GBV victims to come forward. He hoped that the case would land up in court.
A representative of the Department replied to the question on the officials who had been suspended and said that Section 20 and 24 of the PSA dealt with matters of misconduct. The PSA indicated that precautionary suspension was one way to deal with misconduct. The Accounting Officer (AO) could suspend the employee on full pay if the employee was alleged to have committed a serious offence. The AO could also transfer the employee if it was found that the employee could jeopardise the investigation or endanger any person or state property. If the AO placed the official on precautionary suspension it did not constitute judgment on the matter. In the case of the four officials, the AO had considered all the facts and placed the officials on precautionary suspension. The next step was to have a hearing within the next 60 days.
Mr Dugmore referred to the anger of the Premier, and ask if he understood the anger of the complainant in the criminal case against Mr Payne. The HOD in the Department of Transport (DOT) had decided to keep Mr Payne in office pending an ongoing criminal case.
The Chairperson interjected and thanked the Premier and the legal team for briefing the Committee on the report against Mr Fritz.
Mr Christians said that the Committee needed to be provided with a detailed cost analysis of the investigation. He recommended that the Committee be provided with a detailed report without the names of the complainants. There was a lot of speculation in the media about the names of the complainants. The Committee was entitled to the detailed report against Mr Fritz. The matter must be handled by the police, and he recommended an update from the Department in this regard.
Mr Marais said that the Committee had the right to subpoena anyone to appear before it. He wanted the Chairperson to pass a resolution that the Committee would convene again to allow the Department to respond to its questions.
Mr August said the matter had been dealt with at a senior level in the provincial legislature. He asked what the Department, together with the Premier and the Department of Social Development (DSD), could do to ensure that the victims were protected at all levels.
Mr Christians added that the Committee needed the details of why four officials in the Department had been suspended.
Ms Baartman raised concerns about the legal obligations if the WCPP received the full report against Mr Fritz. She requested that the legal team of the WCPP advise the Committee on the legal obligations, to ensure that the details of the complainants were protected. She agreed with Mr Christians that the Committee must receive an update about the four officials because the matter might be handled by labour legislators. She also agreed that the Committee must receive a detailed cost analysis.
Mr Christians added that there must be a time frame on the legal opinion.
The Chairperson indicated that it would be dealt with in the next 14 days.
Mr Kama said that the advocate had not responded to his question that related to the CLSORMAA. It was important to note that if the Act applied in this case, the Premier had failed to adhere to the obligation to report it to the police. He wanted the Committee to pose the question in writing to the legal team of the Premier.
Mr Xego referred to the allegations of intimidation made by Adv Williams. He urged that the Committee must take the matter seriously if it was found that people had deliberately tried to prevent the process of justice.
Ms Botha requested that the Committee allow the DSD to brief it on the lessons it had learned regarding this case, and to ensure that members in management did not abuse their power.
Mr Dugmore stressed that the Premier should provide the Committee with a detailed report, including all the annexures, without the names of the complainants. The Committee was entitled to convene meetings in camera. He recommended that the Premier convene an urgent meeting with the Police Commissioner to hand over the full report. He agreed with the resolution proposed by Ms Botha. He added that the DSD must provide evidence regarding the tenure of the former MEC, Mr Fritz, and the HOD at the time, Dr Robert McDonald, must be present. He also recommended that the letter with the terms of reference for Adv Williams be provided to the Committee. The Committee must also request the current policies of the provincial legislator in relation to protecting complainants of GBV. The Committee must be provided with the internal investigation report by the DSD. He also recommended that the Committee be provided with an affidavit regarding the allegations of intimidation that Adv Williams had made. The Premier must convene with the Committee on how GBV policies could be strengthened. Information had to be provided by Mr JP Smith, Mr Ricardo Mackenzie and Mr Eddie Andrews, and they should appear before the Committee because they were in the constituency of Mitchells Plain. He recommended that the Committee be provided with an update regarding Mr Payne’s cases and the reasons why the HOD in Transport had allowed him to remain in office.
Ms Baartman said the Chairperson had indicated that the Committee would wait 14 days for the legal opinion before asking for the report. She asked for the Chairperson’s recommendation because the Committee did not want to have contradicting resolutions. She questioned the recommendation to receive the terms of reference letter and proposed that the Committee wait on the legal opinion because the terms of reference letter could contain personal information. She also questioned the recommendation to invite the three members, because Mr Mackenzie was on leave and was not involved in the matter. She also questioned the recommendation to invite the HOD of Transport and said that its committee would likely deal with that matter.
Mr Dugmore requested that the Chairperson note and compile a draft list of recommendations so that when the Committee convened again, a decision could be made to adopt the resolutions. This must be done in order to receive a legal opinion about certain resolutions.
Ms Botha agreed with Ms Baartman that the Committee must wait on the legal opinion before finalising resolutions.
Mr Christians said that some resolutions did not need a legal opinion, and could be immediately finalised.
The Chairperson noted the requests and said that he would draft a list of recommendations with the Procedural Officer (PO) and forward it to the Committee. He said that the recommendations had not been resolved.
The Members of the Committee were in agreement.
The meeting was adjourned.
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