Statement by Premier Alan Winde:
Since I suspended Minister Albert Fritz last week Sunday, I have made it clear that I am determined to respect the requests for confidentiality of some of the complainants, which were made clear to me when they submitted their accounts to me earlier this month. This commitment not only related to their identities, but also to not publicizing the nature of their allegations.
I, however, fully understand the public interest in this matter and I am concerned by the immense speculation that has since resulted over the last week. It has always been my nature to be fully transparent.
I have accordingly sought guidance from both our legal services unit and from Advocate Jennifer Williams when we met this past Thursday to hand over the case for investigation. I have since confirmed that, provided I receive permission from all the complainants who brought their allegations to me in confidence, it will be possible to confirm the nature of the allegations in question. Late on Friday I received such permission.
I am therefore now able to confirm that the serious allegations against Minister Fritz relate to sexual misconduct.
I have deep respect for the people who have come forward, for their persons, for their privacy, and for the braveness they have shown, and do not feel it is fitting to expose further details about what has allegedly been inflicted upon them. I would encourage others to show similar restraint. We must think of the people who came forward first, and not seek to cause them further harm, or in fact endanger them, through our actions.
The independent investigation by Advocate Williams, has now begun in earnest to test the veracity of these allegations, and she has been promised my full support and that of the Western Cape Government.
Following my hand-over of the details to the Advocate, I do not foresee me having any other role, as this process is both independent and external. I will take further steps as soon as I have been furnished with the report. I hope that this will be within 14 days, but the investigator must be allowed the space and the time to ensure an independent, thorough and fair process.
We have taken a number of steps to ensure that the complainants in this matter receive the support and protection they need. We have also already informed all the complainants of their rights to lay charges, and I in fact, encouraged them to do so.
In addition, we have referred the complainants to an NGO dedicated to helping and assisting victims of sexual misconduct, having received confirmation from such NGO that such a referral would be appropriate and may proceed. It is important that they have an independent support system in place.
Every person who brings an account to my office will be treated with sensitivity both within the independent investigation that I have initiated, and in respect of any criminal or civil claim that the complainants in question may wish to pursue themselves. They will have our support if they decide to lay charges.
The South African Police Service, while noting that no case has been registered as of yet, has also made public that their door is open to these complainants, should they wish to lay charges.
Lastly, as I have made clear, the option of me laying criminal charges against Minister Fritz remains firmly on the table, depending on the outcome of the independent investigation to determine the veracity of the allegations. I must be guided by this report to ensure a lawful and fair process that will stand up to legal scrutiny in the future.
Gender Based Violence in our own province, and across South Africa, is a scourge that requires action from each and every one of us. I condemn it in the strongest terms possible. But condemnation is not enough. It requires that we all do something about it, whether it be in our communities, or within our own organisations.
That is why I will continue to act as swiftly as possible, but also as carefully as possible, based on the best possible legal advice, to ensure a fair process that achieves justice in the end.
I continue to urge all interested parties to appreciate that a legal process must be pursued for this very reason, and that I must act in a way that respects the rights of all parties, most of all the complainants who have made specific requests for confidentiality.
While saying this, I add my voice and support to all those who speak out against GBV wherever it may take place in our country, regardless of political affiliation. It is incredibly brave to stand up and speak out, and we should all offer our support and care in such cases.
I share below the contact details of the SAPS and other organisations for residents in the Western Cape to report sexual misconduct below, and I encourage the media to publish these details in full.
Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
SAPS: 08600 10111
Report any abuse of children and women to the Provincial Department of Social Development on 0800 220 250. Department of Social Development Email:GBV365DAYS@westerncape.gov.za/ SD.CustomerCare@westerncape.gov.za
Gender-Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428
LifeLine 24-hour crisis helpline: 021 461 1111
Should you require support from the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust counselling lines, you can call:
Observatory: 021 447 9762
Athlone: 021 633 9229
Khayelitsha: 021 361 9085