Workers celebrate Mgidlana ‘small victory’
Workers claimed a small victory on Friday when Parliament announced that Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana was granted special leave while under investigation for a range of allegations.
It was a “small victory” because it was not exactly what the workers wanted; they wanted their boss suspended from Parliament while facing an internal investigation.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), which represents the majority of Parliament’s staff, has been at loggerheads with Mgidlana since shortly after his arrival in Parliament in December 2014.
Mgidlana is also being investigated by the Public Protector, a result of a slew of complaints laid by Nehawu in July last year.
“This is not what we want. We wanted a suspension,” said Sthembiso Tembe, chairperson of the Nehawu branch in Parliament, while addressing an urgent gathering and mini celebration by the workers on Friday. “We will take this as a small victory but we must make sure that he never comes back,” added Tembe, who himself was suspended about a year ago for insubordination and insolence, among other things. He said Nehawu, which had earlier in the week written to the presiding officers calling for Mgidlana’s suspension, was in the dark about “the conditions of this special leave”, adding they had information that Mgidlana still had access to his office and email system. Nehawu also wants Mgidlana’s hearing to be public as he said “we are lying because of a personal vendetta”. “But we are fighting him because of his corruption, maladministration, deviation from the agreement we signed with him, appointing himself to the bid adjudication committee and so on,” said Tembe. Workers sang a song made popular by Cosatu about Zuma’s imminent departure but this time around the reference was to their boss, Mgidlana: “O Utlwile taba tse monate, ba re Mgidlana wa tsamaya.”
Parliament announced that its presiding officers Baleka Mbete and Thandi Modise had granted special leave effective from Friday. They confirmed that Mgidlana had requested that he be placed on special leave while allegations levelled against him by Nehawu were being investigated.
During a heated parliamentary debate on May 30, Mbete revealed that she had referred several allegations regarding administrative irregularities against Mgidlana to an independent audit committee of Parliament for investigation. The committee is made up of external individuals in line with provisions of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
During that debate, opposition MPs came down hard on Mgidlana especially regarding poor labour relations since his arrival in Parliament – with the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) Floyd Shivambu calling for Mgidlana’s suspension.
This week, Shivambu said the EFF would be writing to Mbete and Modise asking that Mgidlana be suspended and not merely be given special leave. The DA welcomed his special leave. Among the allegations made by Nehawu are that: Mgidlana irregularly awarded himself a bursary of R30 000 while he does not qualify for one and that he paid himself an ex gratia bonus of R71 000 three months into his job. The bonus was meant for long-serving Parliament employees, who had gone for years without getting an increase. He also allegedly demanded being chauffeured around by Parliament protection staff in a blue light-fitted vehicle. This service was allegedly extended to his family. Mgidlana also fell out with his security bosses over the appointment of the so-called bouncers, the chamber support staff who physically remove unruly MPs from the House. Staff have claimed that proper recruitment processes were not followed. The presiding officers of Parliament have appointed Deputy Secretary to Parliament Penelope Tyawa to act in Mgidlana’s position while he is on special leave.
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