Security concerns of MPs raised after break-in at office of DA’s Natasha Mazzone
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Cape Town – The security of MPs within the premises of the national legislature came up for discussion on Thursday following the break-in at the parliamentary office of DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone this week.
This emerged when National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced the break-in at Marks Building during the meeting of the National Assembly Programme Committee.
Mapisa-Nqakula said she discussed the matter with Parliament’s acting secretary, Baby Tyawa, National Assembly Secretary Masibulele Xaso, and the head of the institution’s security.
“I am waiting for a report from the police,” she said.
However, Mapisa-Nqakula said she was informed that cameras were not working at the time of the incident.
“According to the Secretary of Parliament, there are cameras where the police have been able to look at what is in the footage. We will see what comes out of it.
“But the Secretary indicated that there are areas in that building where we don’t have cameras because honourable members objected to having cameras installed in those particular areas,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the chief whips forum should have discussed the matter and come up with proposals.
“It is a matter of concern that there is a break-in right within the premises of Parliament and a break-in in the office of a member. It is something which all of us should be concerned about,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula noted that some MPs left the premises very late into the night.
“I imagine if people find an honourable member in the office at night, I would imagine what would happen. It is something we should be concerned about and it is something we will attend to,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
EFF MP Natasha Ntlangwini said the incident was unfortunate and they have spoken about their safety many times.
“There is a great deal of our safety being compromised and if the report comes saying there are no surveillance cameras in certain areas, the surveillance cameras must be installed.
“I think Parliament should not take it from members saying ‘don’t install cameras in this passage and that passage’. There are construction people working on site and many times one does feel unsafe and when you are alone, say, in your office,” Ntlangwini said.
She also said when she came to Parliament, she always worked in a closed office because she did not feel safe as a woman.
“I don’t feel safe as a woman in Parliament. Greater emphasis needs to be taken. We can’t take this issue of break-in into one member's office,” she said.
Ntlangwini said they had raised numerous times the issue of being unsafe, even at the parliamentary villages.
“The police here don’t care. They are on a lounging spree. Gates are wide-opened. There are no frequent checks of who comes in or leaves,” she said, before recalling an incident of theft of her vehicle’s wheels.
“Greater emphasis needs to be paid by Parliament on the safety of members in Parliament and where they are living,” Ntlangwini said.
UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said safety was a serious concern and told fellow members that he was told there were no cameras in an area where he had an altercation with a police officer.
“It is concerning that you have issues with the camera, three or how many years later,” Kwankwa said.
He also said he often released his staff early, who were predominantly women.
“They don’t feel safe, especially on Friday afternoons. There are a lot of people who gain access into the precinct and found roaming up and down,” he said.
Kwankwa recalled a recent incident where one of his staff found someone who was not even a visitor using toilets in the Marks Building.
“The safety issues need to be considered seriously,” he said, adding that the majority of police officers seemed to be lacking discipline.
ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said the safety of MPs should be a priority.
“I would agree that cameras should be installed,” Dlakude said.
She noted that objections on cameras were made on the installations inside the offices.
“In corridors and dark areas cameras should be working so that we know exactly who comes in and goes out. We have many people, people in construction. You meet many people around the precinct,” she said.
Dlakude also expressed unhappiness with how the police conducted their duties.
“It is a serious concern because one day something major might happen and the Parliament will be sued. It is an urgent matter that needs to be attended to,” Dlakude said.
IFP’s Narend Singh said there was a need to beef up the security and called for a confidential briefing on security matters and to come up with proposals.
Mazzone said what shocked her in the break-in into her office was the vandalism when lights were ripped from the ceiling, locks broken from cabinets and “good stuff” taken.
“Access to my particular office seems to be done with a key, which the police are investigating,” she said.