Cape Town - Premier Alan Winde has finally provided more clarity on why he suspended the Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz on Sunday.
The premier had remained mum after his surprise announcement on Sunday that he had suspended Fritz with immediate effect after “serious allegations pertaining to his conduct” were brought to his attention.
Since the announcement, it emerged that the allegations were linked to sexual assault. Sources said the allegations dated back to when he was MEC for Social Development, and that some were levelled against him by young employees.
In a statement on Tuesday, Winde said that initial allegations were first brought to his attention by a third party informally on November 23 last year.
Thereafter, he had immediately requested affidavits from the persons directly involved so that he could take action.
“Since that date, I have ensured that the complainants were afforded due care and empathy and that no pressure was placed on them, noting the nature of their complaints.
“Earlier this month, I was informed that the complainants were now ready to hand over their affidavits. I met with them 11 days ago, accepted their accounts, and consulted with legal services on the next steps to take,” Winde said.
“In the interim, further individuals indicated that they would like to come forward too, and legal services took their accounts down. Following my meeting with the complainants, and after receiving legal advice, I felt I had sufficient information to immediately suspend the MEC and request an independent investigation into this matter.”
Winde said that he is being assisted by the legal services unit of the Western Cape government, which has approached the State Attorney, instructing them that independent legal counsel be appointed to conduct an external investigation.
“We are currently awaiting confirmation from the State Attorney on the instruction, which we expect to receive imminently. I will provide the details of the appointee once confirmed.
“Due to the serious nature of the allegations, it is my belief that an independent legal expert with relevant experience is best placed to investigate these allegations and determine their veracity. It has been my request that the investigation be finalised as quickly as possible,” Winde said.
“I can confirm that, in the interest of transparency, I will release further details on this matter once the external investigator has been appointed, and after consultation with him/her as to what can be mentioned, given the requests of the complainants involved.”
The premier then said that he had been distressed to learn that members of the media are making direct enquiries of several officials in the Western Cape government in order to ascertain the names of these complainants.
“The publication of their names, against their will, would be completely unacceptable, and the Western Cape government will take whatever action necessary to ensure it is prevented.
“These complainants have brought these allegations to me under the strictest of confidence. To publish their names, against their will, will only add to the very serious stress and anxiety that they are feeling now, and possibly deter others from coming forward in similar cases in future,” Winde said.
He added that the provincial government was providing counselling to any employee who requested support through this process.
“The complainants who have approached me have been informed that they have the option to lay criminal charges too, and that any necessary support will be provided to them should they elect to do so.
“I am not in a position to lay criminal charges currently, but I cannot discount the prospect of this happening should the investigation by this independent counsel result in advice indicating that it is necessary or appropriate for me to do so,” he said.
“The well-being and protection of the complainants is a top concern. It should be all of ours too. I ask for editors and other interested parties to consider the best interests of these complainants and not to publish their names, unless they have provided explicit consent.”
Winde’s statement comes after it emerged that Fritz also asked to be excused as the provincial DA leader until the end of February.
The premier has also appointed Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais as the acting MEC for Community Safety.
* Additional reporting Sisonke Mlamla