In The News South Africa

Parliamentary workers celebrate Mgidlana being placed on special leave

PARLIAMENT, June 9 – Parliamentary staff were in a celebratory mood on Friday after news the legislature’s officers had agreed to place the Secretary of the institution on special leave pending the outcome of an investigation against him.

Parliament announced earlier in the day that Gengezi Mgidlana had been placed on special leave after allegations were levelled against him by the National Health, Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), who represents most of the legislature’s workers.

Chairman of Nehawu’s parliament branch, Sthembiso Tembe, addressed workers shortly after the news broke, saying while they would have preferred Mgidlana was suspended, they welcomed the fact that they were one step closer to their final goal.

“It’s a small step towards the ultimate prize that Mgidlana is kicked out of Parliament because he was never fit to run Parliament,” said Tembe to loud cheers from staff.

“We want to say to Mgidlana, ‘we don’t want you’. Thank you very much for the torture and the oppression.”

Tembe warned “this was only the beginning”, issuing a warning to other “problematic managers” in Parliament that “their time is also coming”.

Nehawu said it would present all documentation related to their allegations of maladministration against Mgidlana to the external audit committee that was set up by Parliament’s presiding officers to conduct the probe.

The union was also set to send these documents to Public Protector (PP) Busisiwe Mkhwebana. In July last year, Nehawu laid a complaint at the PP’s office. The union said it would now be adding more complaints.

“Mkhwebana has to prove herself because she hasn’t proven herself to us, or anyone in South Africa,” said Tembe.

Parliament said on Friday morning that it had granted special leave to the Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, pending an investigation into allegations levelled against him.

In a statement, Parliament said Presiding Officers of Parliament, National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, and National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Thandi Modise, had granted Mgidlana, special leave, effective from Friday.

“The Secretary to Parliament wrote to the Presiding Officers on 29 May 2017, requesting to be placed on special leave while allegations levelled against him by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers” Union (Nehawu) are investigated,” the statement said.

Recently, the Presiding Officers referred several allegations regarding administrative irregularities against the Secretary to Parliament to an independent Audit Committee of Parliament for investigation, it added.

“The independent Audit Committee, comprised of external individuals in line with provisions of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, is expected to probe the allegations with the necessary swiftness and to report back to the Presiding Officers.

“The Presiding Officers wish to state that, consistent with the principles of natural justice, the Secretary to Parliament remains innocent until proven otherwise.

“All parties have been urged to cooperate with the Audit Committee process, which it is hoped will scrutinise these allegations and put the matter to rest.”

Parliament said that in the absence of Mgidlana, the Presiding Officers would appoint one of the two Deputy Secretaries to Parliament as Acting Secretary to Parliament.

Nehawu, which represents workers in Parliament, earlier this week demanded an independent probe into Mgidlana, whom it accused of corruption and maladministration.

Mgidlana, in turn, has accused Nehawu of character assassination, saying the union’s claims that he erroneously awarded himself a bursary and a bonus of R70,000 were “misleading and disingenuous”.

Nehawu, which is currently engaged in a dispute with Mgidlana and senior management over the 2017 salary increases, had given Parliament’s presiding officers until the end of the week to suspend Mgidlana pending the outcome of an independent investigation.

The union said it would provide documentary proof of Mgidlana’s alleged transgressions.

“We want to assure him that we have irrefutable hard-core evidence to prove our case and kick him out of Parliament because he doesn’t deserve to be here. He lost his legitimacy the first day he set foot here,” said Sthembiso Tembe, chairman of the Nehawu’s parliamentary launch.

Nehawu also said it was still awaiting feedback from the Public Protector after the union laid a complaint in July last year.

Nehawu regional secretary Baxolise Mali also weighed in, asking presiding officers to stop treating Mgidlana like “a golden boy”.

Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen welcomed the suspension, and urged the audit committee to conduct its investigation without fear or favour.

“We look forward to studying the findings of the Audit Committee which, if done properly, will vindicate us and the brave staffers who have exposed Mgidlana for what he is,” he said.

“Mgidlana has been allowed to mismanage Parliament for far too long. He has antagonised and bullied staff with seeming impunity and has facilitated questionable political appointments to senior management positions which now threaten the independence and integrity of the legislature.”

Labour relations at Parliament has been at a low for the past few years. In 2015, workers went on strike over, among others, bonuses and working conditions.

Parliament said on Friday morning that it had granted special leave to the Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, pending an investigation into allegations levelled against him.

In a statement, Parliament said Presiding Officers of Parliament, National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, and National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Thandi Modise, had granted Mgidlana, special leave, effective from Friday.

“The Secretary to Parliament wrote to the Presiding Officers on 29 May 2017, requesting to be placed on special leave while allegations levelled against him by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers” Union (Nehawu) are investigated,” the statement said.

Recently, the Presiding Officers referred several allegations regarding administrative irregularities against the Secretary to Parliament to an independent Audit Committee of Parliament for investigation, it added.

“The independent Audit Committee, comprised of external individuals in line with provisions of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, is expected to probe the allegations with the necessary swiftness and to report back to the Presiding Officers.

“The Presiding Officers wish to state that, consistent with the principles of natural justice, the Secretary to Parliament remains innocent until proven otherwise.

“All parties have been urged to cooperate with the Audit Committee process, which it is hoped will scrutinise these allegations and put the matter to rest.”

Parliament said that in the absence of Mgidlana, the Presiding Officers would appoint one of the two Deputy Secretaries to Parliament as Acting Secretary to Parliament.

ANA

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