Par­lia­ment jus­ti­fies hir­ing ‘white shirts’

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

Par­lia­ment has re­vealed that it re­cruited ac­tive po­lice of­fi­cers to be­come part of its pro­tec­tion ser­vices be­cause its ex­ist­ing pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers did not have the nec­es­sary crit­i­cal skills re­quired to en­gage with and con­trol un­ruly MPs.

This emerged in court papers, filed this week, in which the House dis­putes ac­cu­sa­tions of un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion against its pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers af­ter hav­ing re­cruited ac­tive cops at higher salaries.

Sixty-nine long-stand­ing pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers took Par­lia­ment to the labour court in De­cem­ber, cit­ing un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion.

In July 2015, Par­lia­ment moved speed­ily to en­list of­fi­cers from the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) to be­come part of its pro­tec­tion ser­vices. This in a bid to en­force a new rule, which pro­vided for dis­rup­tive MPs to be force­fully re­moved from the House.

The hir­ing of the po­lice of­fi­cers, who had no par­lia­men­tary ex­pe­ri­ence, on bet­ter terms and con­di­tions led to ten­sions in the pro­tec­tion unit.

In May 2016, City Press re­vealed that Par­lia­ment had reshuf­fled its staffing struc­ture to cre­ate new po­si­tions to ac­com­mo­date the for­mer cops at a bet­ter an­nual pay level of up to R150 000 more than the ex­ist­ing team of par­lia­men­tary pro­tec­tion ser­vice of­fi­cials.

The court papers con­firm that the so-called white shirts were hired as “cham­ber sup­port of­fi­cers”, at salary lev­els higher than the ex­ist­ing pro­tec­tion staff.

They also con­firm that the white shirts’ new job ti­tles sep­a­rated them from ex­ist­ing pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers and, in ef­fect, split the par­lia­men­tary pro­tec­tion ser­vice.

Par­lia­ment said the newly de­signed po­si­tions pro­vided for crit­i­cal skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing:

The abil­ity to ef­fec­tively han­dle dis­rup­tions in the House and se­cure the “safe phys­i­cal re­moval” of MPs;

The abil­ity to re­spond to emer­gency sit­u­a­tions in the House, thanks to ac­tive po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced in se­cu­rity prac­tices and pro­ce­dures, and be­ing phys­i­cally fit; and

The abil­ity to work in a team. The 69 ap­pli­cants claimed that at no stage was it made known to them what the “nec­es­sary ca­pa­bil­i­ties” were and that no for­mal hu­man re­sources pro­cesses were fol­lowed in ap­point­ing the new white shirts.

They also claimed that these ap­point­ments had cre­ated an at­mos­phere of “com­plete un­hap­pi­ness” within pro­tec­tion ser­vices, es­pe­cially since the cham­ber sup­port of­fi­cers were earn­ing higher salaries for do­ing only one part of the role re­quired of pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers and for work­ing far fewer hours.

Par­lia­ment ex­plained in court papers that ex­ist­ing pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers were re­spon­si­ble for per­form­ing pro­tec­tion du­ties within the par­lia­men­tary precinct to en­sure a safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment, with another group – des­ig­nated as se­nior pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers – be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the de­ploy­ment of pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers.

They were not trained to phys­i­cally re­move MPs from the House, the court papers re­vealed.

Re­fer­ring to the ruckus in Par­lia­ment which oc­curred on Au­gust 21 2014, when MPs from the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers dis­rupted Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ques­tion-an­dan­swer ses­sion by chant­ing “pay back the money” in ref­er­ence to the Nkandla over­spend, the House said such un­ruly be­hav­iour high­lighted the need for in­creased ca­pac­ity as the pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers did not have the nec­es­sary crit­i­cal skills to en­gage and con­trol un­ruly MPs.

Sec­re­tary to Par­lia­ment Gengezi Mgid­lana then ac­ti­vated a head-hunt­ing process, which was em­barked upon be­cause the need for cham­ber sup­port was press­ing and im­me­di­ate, said Par­lia­ment.

A to­tal of 66 po­si­tions were cre­ated and 37 ap­point­ments were made from the SAPS through this head-hunt­ing process. “The typ­i­cal pro­file of an ap­pointee was long ser­vice with the SAPS, with ex­per­tise and train­ing in crowd con­trol, pub­lic or­der polic­ing and high-in­ten­sity se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tions,” Par­lia­ment said.

The re­main­ing 29 po­si­tions were ear­marked to be filled from in­ter­nal ap­pli­cants. That process started in Au­gust 2015, but was sus­pended for a num­ber of rea­sons, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial con­straints and strike ac­tion by some House em­ploy­ees, said Par­lia­ment in its papers.

Par­lia­ment went on to say that, “on an ob­jec­tive as­sess­ment of the rel­e­vant facts”, any un­hap­pi­ness was un­jus­ti­fied.

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