FIVE YEARS LATER
Salga CEO Xolile George recommended as new Secretary to Parliament
The South African Local Government Association CEO is set to become the next permanently appointed top administrator — once both Houses of Parliament approve this recommendation from the presiding officers.
After almost five years without a permanently appointed Secretary to Parliament, it still will take resolutions in both Houses of Parliament to ratify the appointment of South African Local Government Association (Salga) CEO Xolile George from 1 June 2022.
“Mr George is an administrator, who will bring a remarkable and deep knowledge and extensive experience in a range of areas that include intergovernmental and international relations, development economics and political-administration interface. The appointment of Mr George will bring the required stability in the administration of Parliament…” according to Friday’s joint statement from National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces (Ncop) Chairperson Amos Masondo.
George’s appointment would end almost five years without a permanently appointed Secretary to Parliament.
Since June 2017, the post has been held in an acting capacity by Baby Tyawa, the deputy Secretary to Parliament who took over from Gengezi Mgidlana as he went on special leave. When disciplinary proceedings after some two years resulted in guilty findings on seven of the 13 misconduct counts, both Houses of Parliament in mid-October 2019 approved resolutions to dismiss Mgidlana with immediate effect. Tyawa remained as acting Secretary to Parliament.
As far back as March 2021, an interview panel identified George as the best candidate for Secretary to Parliament. But the process stalled, according to the grapevine, also over pay — the around R2.5-million salary packet that comes with the Secretary of Parliament post is less than half of the R5.8-million salary, including performance bonuses and allowances, George got as Salga CEO, according to the association’s 2020/21 annual report.
During the 17 March programming committee meeting, Mapisa-Nqakula said the search for a new Secretary to Parliament would resume. Plans to announce an appointment from 1 April had not worked. “We have not won… We have tried to work very hard…We are now proceeding to work on a new advert.”
Subsequently, that job advert with the closing deadline of 1 April was published in Sunday newspapers, stating an annual salary package range of R2,457,227 to R2,604,661 for the Secretary to Parliament.
But it seems a change of heart happened and discussions secured George as Parliament’s top administrator designate. Details of the agreement are unclear.
“Parliament and Salga will work out all the transitional modalities for the Secretary to Parliament designate,” said the presiding officers’ statement on Friday.
George has the support of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) which, it is understood, earlier in 2022 had also written to the Speaker to make that point.
While the ANC’s support of George is a given — the recommendation for his appointment would not have been announced without it — it remains to be seen if political parties represented at Parliament would come out in support of George. Stances will emerge when lawmakers deal with the motion for his appointment in the respective Houses.
With a starting date of 1 June, George may just catch a break in the transition from Salga to Parliament. The national legislature is set to go on recess from mid-June to mid-August.
However, the challenges are plentiful — from critical skills vacancies from committees, translation and other sections, to the impact of Covid-19 lockdown that still has the national legislature operating at less than full capacity and the devastation wracked by the 2 January fire that still has the National Assembly roofless and unprotected against further damage from Cape winter rains.
The Secretary to Parliament’s post has been controversial in the past.
The first Secretary to Parliament in a democratic Parliament, Sindiso Mfenyana, served his term without controversy; his book “Walking with Giants” was launched in Parliament’s library in September 2017.
His successor Zingile Dingani, a former Free State finance MEC, was dismissed in late 2012 over the misuse of R186,000 for a wall around his property.
Secretary to Parliament Michael Coetzee, who had been deputy since 2002, held that post while also fighting cancer. He remains credited for restoring stability and focus in Parliament’s administration. The activist turned committed civil servant passed away in June 2014.
Mgidlana, a Presidency deputy director-general for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), was appointed as Secretary to Parliament for five years from 1 December 2014. Attracting controversy almost from the start, including acrimonious relations with the Parliament branch of Nehawu, he was dismissed for serious misconduct in mid-October 2019 by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. DM