Cape Town - Social development standing committee chairperson Dan Plato (DA) said he would meet with legal advisers and officials in the premier’s office to see if the committee could discuss the issue of the sexual misconduct allegations against former Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz.
Plato made the promise at the end of a 3-hour briefing by the provincial social development department to the committee on the twin issues of a sexual harassment policy and the provincial gender-based violence (GBV) implementation plan, during which the ANC pushed for a discussion of the issue.
During the briefing, committee members Rachel Windvogel and Mesuli Kama (both ANC) repeatedly asked questions relating to the Fritz matter, saying that some of the allegations against him came in the period when he was Social Development MEC before May 2019, when he moved to Community Safety.
Plato said he did not want to deal with the matter as it was sub judice, and also, it was still the subject of investigations conducted by the premier’s office.
“There are also legal issues involved. I will have to ask the premier’s office to assist and for some legal advice if we are going to follow a just cause here.
“I fear things might come out and appear in the newspapers and thus jeopardise the whole issue with regard to the case.”
He said there was no unwillingness on his part to discuss the matter, and he understood the eagerness of the opposition to bring it to the committee, but he wanted to make sure the cases of those involved were not jeopardised in the process.
Asked during the briefing if he would appear before the committee to give feedback on the Fritz issue, social development department head Robert Macdonald said he was available and willing but left it to the chairperson to decide.
On the question of whether provincial government officials facing charges of sexual harassment should remain in their jobs, he said if someone is charged with harassing a junior person, they should be suspended, especially if deemed to be a risk to others in the department.
“There is also a case law where employers have been found to be civilly liable for not taking action against harassers in the workplace.
“So it is incumbent on employers to take the necessary action to protect victims of sexual harassment, and that is our policy as well,” he said.