Cape Town – Parliament has defended its decision to stop the parliamentary protection services from working on weekends and public holidays since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
This after one of the long-serving MPs, Steve Swart of the ACDP was outraged on Friday that the multi-party whippery forum was not officially notified of the arrangement.
“At no stage, as whips, were we advised that no officials are on duty within Parliament.
“This is a deep concern.
“It is shocking that there was no person on duty within the buildings. Had there been a person, they would have picked up immediately the smoke or the person walking around,” he charged.
Swart demanded that they be provided with an explanation, and whether the presiding officers were aware that there were no parliamentary protection services on duty.
“Why were the chief whips and MPs not aware that there were no members on duty within the precinct?”, Swart asked.
Acting Secretary to Parliament Baby Tyawa said in terms of Covid-19 regulations issued by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, they had to identify a Covid-19 compliance officer and also adhere to all Covid-19 regulations.
“I can confirm that when Covid-19 happened in March 2020, we changed our working schedule. Our parliamentary protection services stopped working on weekends and on public holidays,” she said, adding that the work of securing the precinct was given to SAPS.
Tyawa also said the 24/7 work schedule by the parliamentary protection services had happened for many years, until March 2020.
She also said the change happened to make sure that the national legislature managed and mitigated the spread of the virus at the time.
“We did not just change and decide to move people around,” she said.
Tyawa also explained that there had been a lot of infections at the time and that they had to look for the space and rooms the officials occupied as well as ensure proper social distancing and that nurses tested them.
She also said the officials were allowed to take the compulsory leave from December 16 until January 3, a practice done over the years.
“We did not for two years have our officials on the precinct at that time and, therefore, we did not have officials on the night the fire happened,” she said.
Tyawa said the SAPS had to ensured that when MPs needed access to their offices, that they accessed them.
“Nobody would have known this thing would happen that time,” Tyawa said.
She, however, stated that the role of SAPS in the National Key Point was to control access to the perimeter.
“They are supposed to patrol and monitor the cameras that are around in Parliament. We have 300 cameras or more,” she said.
“At the bottom of 100 Plein Street we have a monitoring system that is managed by SAPS. The alleged breach of security is a matter of investigation and I would plead not to speak much about it,” she said.