South Africa

PARLIAMENT

Police officer who obstructed reporter is barred from parliamentary duties

Police officer who obstructed reporter is barred from parliamentary duties
South African Police Service members at the parliamentary precinct in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Trevor Kunene)

A police brigadier who harassed a reporter on Budget Day in February has been blocked from performing duties in the parliamentary precinct.

Note: This is an update to:

Strong-arm security at Parliament: Questions unanswered after string of bully-boy incidents

In a positive affirmation of Parliament’s presiding officers’ control of the national legislature precinct, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has barred from the precinct the police officer who obstructed a journalist from doing lawful media work.

The brigadier, whose name is known to Daily Maverick, on Budget Day slapped away the cell phone of News24 journalist Jan Gerber, who was filming an interaction between three police officers, including a plainclothes officer, and DA interim leader John Steenhuisen who earlier had been blocked from entering Parliament.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA), of which Gerber is a member, wrote to Modise to complain about this police conduct.

The incidents involving Steenhuisen and Gerber were among a series involving several MPs, parliamentary staff and others in which SAPS conduct was sharply criticised, also in the House.

In her letter dated 5 March, Modise replied to the PGA that she had brought the matter to the attention of Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Kehla Sitole — and on 27 February also met the operational SAPS bosses seconded to Parliament.

“I gave a specific directive for the member of the SAPS, who reportedly harassed several Members (of Parliament) and may have also been involved in the incident involving Mr Gerber, to not perform duties within Parliament’s precincts forthwith,” wrote Modise, adding that journalists’ work is respected.

“There was an undertaking to treat Members of Parliament and the public with respect and to co-operate with Parliament’s security personnel. Similarly, members of the public are urged to co-operate whenever the need arises to ensure their own safety.”

The 2004 Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act gives the National Assembly Speaker and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson joint control over the precinct, and security services may only enter, remain and perform any policing function under the authority of the presiding officers. DM

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