South Africa


The national legislature’s life and times of recruiting and restructuring

The national legislature’s life and times of recruiting and restructuring
Parliament’s administration is in a state of flux — partly over resignations, partly due to restructuring, says the writer. (Photo: Daily Maverick)

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise’s question about what exactly the precinct of Parliament was and who controlled it may hint at underlying tensions and contestations as the parliamentary administration is restructured.

The application deadline to become a chef at Parliament, or waitron, is Friday. A week later, it’s the deadline for the posts of chief financial officer, chief information officer and security management boss. Parliament’s administration is in flux: partly over resignations, partly due to restructuring.

According to Parliament’s jobs adverts, shortlisted candidates will be security vetted by the State Security Agency (SSA) and the police, alongside having checks done on citizenship status and qualifications. It doesn’t matter if it’s for the R521,729 annual remuneration package as “head waitron”, as the ad put it, the cashier’s R276,547 a year package, or the R1,853,953 a new chief finance officer would earn as an annual remuneration package, or the R1,992,289-a-year post of the chief information officer.

The restructuring has been underway for a year or so. Alongside HR moves such as the insourcing of cleaning and catering staff — that process, now completed, created vacancies, hence the Sunday newspaper jobs advert for chefs, waitrons, cashiers and so on — the administration is getting an overall rejig.

That reorganisation means the post of Deputy Secretary to Parliament is done away with, according to the organogram seen by Daily Maverick. Parliament in democratic South Africa has always been run with a Secretary to Parliament and a deputy, in keeping with the national legislature’s status as the legislative sphere of the state, rather than a department or government entity.

Instead, the new organogram shows the post of chief operations officer as central. The COO is the link between the Secretary to Parliament and sections such as legal services, external relations, research and advisory services such as the library ad translation, corporate services like IT, finance and protection services, but also to the secretaries of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP), who are responsible for the table staff, the experienced parliamentary officials running sittings and related matters, and providing logistical and resource support for committees.

National Education, Health and Allied Union (Nehawu) parliamentary branch chairperson Sthembiso Tembe said the union would support the COO post, as long as “an experienced and qualified person” was appointed, because the position could facilitate smoother management. “The previous person did not perform to the level as required. But if a qualified person is appointed it could help us a lot.”

Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo did not respond to detailed questions on the restructuring, part of an emailed request for comment submitted last week Tuesday for responses two working days later, nor to follow-up emails and SMSes since.

The restructuring comes as Parliament last Sunday advertised key top management posts that have been vacant for some seven months and longer.

The national legislature lost its chief financial officer in late 2018 as Manenzhe Manenzhe moved north to take up the job of Johannesburg CFO from 1 January 2019. The post of chief information officer has been vacant since late 2018 when Unathi Mtya resigned, repaid Parliament R88,333 to cover the remaining four months of the 12 months in-service requirement in return for a bursary, and joined the private sector.

This Sunday newspaper’s advert for “Head of Security Management” is interesting. Parliament traditionally has had what’s been known as the Parliamentary Protection Service (PPS) with its own boss, who’s in charge of the liaison committee that also includes the SAPS, which traditionally was seconded to assist in access control at the gates.

The new organogram shows a “security advice office”, alongside a treasury advice office, between the National Assembly Speaker and NCOP Chairperson, the political leadership of Parliament. It’s not clear how this security advice office would be staffed. But the new structure continues to refer to protection services under corporate services that would report to the COO. As do the advertised job specs on Parliament’s website that talk of a protection services section:

The successfull [sic] candidate will be responsible for managing all aspects of safety and security in and around Parliament and the parliamentary precincts”.

That protection service remains in a state of instability, having been led for the past four years by an acting incumbent who now faces disciplinary proceedings after grievances were laid against him. Continuing is the longstanding court action by longstanding PPS staff against the so-called bouncers, officially chamber support staff, hired in 2015 at short notice from the SAPS — at significantly better terms and conditions. Appeal papers have been submitted in mid-July, but a court hearing date has yet to be set, according to court papers Daily Maverick has seen.

While Mothapo did not respond to detailed questions related to the appointment of a new security head and the disciplinary actions against the acting boss, Nehawu expressed its concern.

The issue of the protection service has been a serious matter that has been left for some time. We are not happy we have employees earning different salary levels doing the same job. They (bouncers) were recruited for political reasons,” said Tembe.

The restructuring has been mired in speculation and concerns from workers about how it is being handled, also by the union. The parliamentary grapevine has been abuzz with claims many managers did not actually have the qualifications needed for their jobs. But then one staffer, who’s also a union member, was suspended at the end of July for having lied over qualifications. It’s understood a disciplinary process is getting underway against the person, whose name is known to Daily Maverick from documents seen, and confirmation from Nehawu.

Mothapo did not respond to detailed questions on this incident and a skills audit that were part of the overall emailed request for comment.

Nehawu’s parliamentary branch has claimed as a success the insourcing of cleaning and catering staff and that managers at D-level are now permanent, rather than five-year contract workers. But the union had to demur when all managers, except at the top levels, were made permanent. Tembe said the union was concerned about the slow pace of restructuring: a year in and only the HR division is complete, while the initial restructuring end date given to the union was 202o. “It must be finalised the soonest,” he added.

But quite often Parliament marches to its own rhythm and rhyme.

In mid-July National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise raised a curious point in her budget vote address when she asked, seemingly off-hand:

What and exactly where is the precinct of Parliament and who controls it?”

The 2004 Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act is very clear: the Speaker and NCOP Chairperson are in charge, at all times in all matters.

Or as Section 3 of the Act states: “The Speaker and the Chairperson, subject to this Act, the standing rules and resolutions of the Houses, exercise joint control and authority over the precincts on behalf of Parliament.”

And Section 2 defines the precinct as “the area of land and every building or part of a building under Parliament’s control, including the chambers in which the proceedings of the Houses are conducted and the galleries and lobbies of the chambers… committee rooms and other meeting places provided or used for parliamentary business…” Forecourts, gardens and yards and, generally, spaces adjacent to these buildings are also included.

And Section 4 of that Act clearly states security services such as the SAPS, SSA and military are allowed to operate on the parliamentary precinct “only with the permission and under the authority of the Speaker or the Chairperson”.

Modise’s question about what exactly the precinct of Parliament was and who controlled it came out of the left-field, but it may hint at underlying tensions and contestations in these times of restructuring. It’s a space to watch. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options