Statement by Premier Alan Winde on independent investigation into allegations
Media release by Premier Alan Winde on independent investigation into allegations made against Minister Albert Fritz
On Sunday I announced that Minister Fritz had been suspended with immediate effect after serious allegations pertaining to his conduct were brought to my attention.
Initial allegations related to this matter were first brought to my attention by a third party informally on 23 November 2021. I immediately requested affidavits from the persons directly involved so that I could take action. Since that date I have ensured that the complainants were afforded due care and empathy and that no pressure was placed on them, noting the nature of their complaints.
Earlier this month, I was informed that the complainants were now ready to hand over their affidavits. I met with them 11 days ago, accepted their accounts, and consulted with legal services on the next steps to take. In the interim, further individuals indicated that they would like to come forward too, and legal services took their accounts down. Following my meeting with the complainants, and after receiving legal advice, I felt I had sufficient information to immediately suspend the Minister and request an independent investigation into this matter.
I am being assisted by the legal services unit of the Western Cape Government, which has approached the State Attorney, instructing them that independent legal counsel be appointed to conduct an external investigation into the veracity of the allegations made against Minister Albert Fritz. We are currently awaiting confirmation from the State Attorney on the instruction, which we expect to receive imminently. I will provide the details of the appointee once confirmed.
Due to the serious nature of the allegations, it is my belief that an independent legal expert with relevant experience is best placed to investigate these allegations and determine their veracity. It has been my request that the investigation be finalised as quickly as possible. I can confirm that, in the interest of transparency, I will release further details on this matter once the external investigator has been appointed, and after consultation with him/her as to what can be mentioned, given the requests of the complainants involved.
It has caused me distress to learn that members of the media are making direct enquiries of several officials in the Western Cape Government in order to ascertain the names of these complainants.
The publication of their names, against their will, would be completely unacceptable, and the Western Cape Government will take whatever action necessary to ensure it is prevented.
These complainants have brought these allegations to me under the strictest of confidence. To publish their names, against their will, will only add to the very serious stress and anxiety that they are feeling now, and possibly, deter others from coming forward in similar cases in future.
The Western Cape Government, through the Health and Wellness service provider, is providing counselling to any employee who requests support through this difficult process. The complainants who have approached me have been informed that they have the option to lay criminal charges too, and that any necessary support will be provided to them should they elect to do so.
I am not in a position to lay criminal charges currently, but I cannot discount the prospect of this happening, should the investigation by this independent counsel result in advice indicating that it is necessary or appropriate for me to do so.
The wellbeing and protection of the complainants is a top concern. It should be all of ours too. I ask for Editors and other interested parties to consider the best interests of these complainants and not to publish their names, unless they have provided explicit consent.
For media enquiries on this matter:
Office of the Premier