PARLY SECURITY HEAD ‘GUILTY’
Suspended head of Parliament security Zelda Holtzman was acquitted of 11 of the 14 charges brought against her by the institution, with the most serious guilty verdict being for failure to develop a strategic plan or business plan for Parliament. This is detailed in an 81-page document about the inquiry into Holtzman.
When Parliament suspended Holtzman and her deputy, Motlatsi Mokgatla, on full pay in July last year, it said they were being investigated for alleged security breaches and issues affecting Parliament’s protection services. But this week it emerged that Holtzman was only found guilty of a failure to develop a business plan, not adequately responding to questions from her superior about secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana’s use of blue lights and a failure to address divisions among staff in her unit.
The use of blue lights by Mgidlana and the recruitment of active police officers into Parliament security were key points of tension between Mgidlana, Holtzman and Mokgatla and, according to several documents – including court papers City Press has seen – the two security heads objected to Mgidlana’s use of blue lights, saying it was not the duty of Parliament’s protection services to drive him around.
In a memorandum, they questioned the process Parliament followed in recruiting police to become part of its protection unit and the appointment of a subordinate, Deon van der Spuy, to manage the project to improve security in Parliament, which included the recruitment of police. They raised dissatisfactions about being sidelined by Mgidlana, saying this was a result of their “refusal to be forced to carry out functions where the legal basis of those actions is questionable”.
The duo recommended that, among other things, Mgidlana rescind the appointment of the junior official as project manager and that the alleged use of blue lights and sirens in the vehicles used to transport Mgidlana be fully and independently investigated to prevent a recurrence of unlawful behaviour and actions.
In turn, Mgidlana instructed his deputy, Baby Tyawa, to investigate whether it was true that protection services personnel were not supposed to drive him. In investigating the matter, Tyawa sent Holtzman questions about her assertion that it was not her staff’s duty to drive Mgidlana. The inquiry found that Holtzman failed to provide adequate written responses to these questions despite being given several chances to respond. She was found guilty for gross insubordination for this.
A week after they handed in the memorandum, they were suspended from Parliament.
As for being found guilty of a failure to develop a strategic or business plan for Parliament, Holtzman testified that she did not know what a business plan was and was never requested to develop one. The inquiry found her guilty on the basis that she had developed a business plan in previous financial years.
Among the charges Holtzman was exonerated on were those for speaking to the media after her suspension without getting permission from Mgidlana; telling Sunday newspapers that Parliament’s actions against her were “reminiscent of the apartheid government”; and preventing her superior from participating in a meeting with protection services staff. Parliament argued her media comments had tainted its image and brought its name into disrepute.
On June 29, lawyers will argue in mitigation and aggravation of sentence. SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng has denied banning any criticism of the public broadcaster and himself on any of its platforms, yet he vowed to hunt down the “rotten potatoes” that were leaking internal information to the media.
Motsoeneng was responding to reports put to him that SABC management had on Thursday called radio executive producers and presenters, and told them that the public broadcaster, its policies or Motsoeneng himself could not be criticised on air. He also denied that he had banned outside commentators and newspaper editors, as well as SAfm Sunday show The Editors.
“I will have to check with editorial management, because, you know, every time there’s a decision people will say it’s Motsoeneng, even if I have nothing to do with it. I will check if such a decision was made, but what I know is I am not aware of any of the things raised here,” Motsoeneng said.
He repeatedly spoke of how those who “run to the media” were making life difficult for themselves. “We will get rid of those who run to the newspapers ... Actually, SABC employees are very happy but there are a few rotten potatoes; there are very few of them, including those who leak internal information to the media.”
Motsoeneng, who has been widely criticised for a number of decisions made at the SABC, was adamant that few people were unhappy with his leadership and decisions at the public broadcaster that have been attributed to him.
“I am not apologetic about transforming the organisation and decisions, including not to show certain images in our news. In fact, the majority of South Africans, including religious organisations, have endorsed that decision,” he said. “I can tell you that 90% of South Africans are very excited with the transformation at the SABC and our improved news coverage, and I don’t know where this other 10% comes from or who they represent. People are very apologetic where they have to implement equity and transformation, but not us at the SABC.” He said SABC employees were expected to “sing the song and talk the talk of the SABC”. “If the SABC releases a statement, our employees can’t say ‘the SABC said this’; they must say ‘we are saying this or have decided on that’. They can’t report like other broadcasters when they are part of any SABC decision,” he said. “I have been thinking maybe our employees should have uniforms so that they can understand unity. “The SABC is independent as an organisation, but no one is independent within the organisation.” He clarified that decisions, some of which he took credit for, such as playing 90% local music on SABC radio stations, were not made single-handedly. He also responded to reports that he was working for the ANC. “We’re not here to serve politics and are not influenced by any political party,” he said. An insider has told City Press that analysts such as William Bird have been blacklisted because of their critical views of the SABC’s approach to news reporting. He said colleagues in other bureaus had complained that there were people they were not allowed to source information from.
– Additional reporting by Setumo Stone