DA asks for legal opinion on sex pest
A parliamentary hearing of the DA member of Parliament accused of sexual harassment is on hold after the party asked for a legal opinion on the matter this week.
The DA objected to a decision by Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interests to call the complainant as a witness.
An internal party disciplinary hearing has already found the MP, Archibold Figlan, guilty of sexual harassment. He was given a sentence the ANC calls a slap on the wrist – because he continues as an MP.
A DA employee earlier this year laid a complaint of sexual harassment against Figlan after an incident during a protest at the state of the nation address. Figlan allegedly said “protest here” as he put her hand on his crotch. According to DA federal executive chair James Selfe, the party has already been through “a very thorough investigation of this case”. But ANC chief whip Stone Sizani called the process “a miscarriage of justice”. Sizani laid a complaint, asking the committee to investigate whether Figlan had breached the code of conduct for MPs.
The ANC said the DA, with the light sentence, had missed an opportunity to send a powerful message against the abuse of women.
DA MP Sandy Kalyan confirmed on Friday that the committee process was on hold pending a legal opinion the DA had sought from Parliament’s legal team on the powers and mandate of the ethics committee.
“The mandate seems to be overlapping with that of the powers and privileges committee,” she said.
But an ANC MP, who is a member of the committee, warned that the DA should not be making an issue where there was none.
According to the MP, there was no privilege when it came to allegations of sexual harassment – because this concerned the ethical conduct of an “honourable member”.
Selfe contended the matter was not within the scope of the ethics committee and warned against the committee process heading for serious problems.
“If we go this way, it means there is a permanent policing of actions and activities of MPs. A short walk from that, we will end up with a situation where a majority is used to decide what is unethical and what is not.”
Figlan said earlier that the committee had already asked him to submit a sworn affidavit but he wanted to know first what the exact charges were. “One cannot be charged for the same thing twice.” Part of the sanction imposed by the DA against him was that he would not, for five years, be eligible for any elected position in the party.
Figlan’s DA membership was terminated but that part of the sentence was suspended for five years.
He also had to perform two hours of community service each month for a year and pay a fine of R1 000 a month for 12 months.
After his sentence, Figlan remained the DA’s deputy shadow minister for home affairs.
Selfe defended this, saying the post of deputy shadow minister was a caucus appointment and Figlan had already resigned from the federal position he held before the verdict of the internal disciplinary hearing.