New secretary for Parliament

Michael Coetzee's predecessor, Zingile Dingani. (Sunday Times)

Michael Coetzee's predecessor, Zingile Dingani. (Sunday Times)

Coetzee's appointment was approved by Parliament this week following the dismissal of his predecessor, Zingile Dingani, last month.

Coetzee has been acting in the position since March, when Dingani was suspended. Dingani was fired in September for misleading the speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mninwa Mahlangu, into authorising a salary advance of R186000 to build a security wall around his home.

This week political parties welcomed Coetzee's appointment and praised the experience he would bring to the position. Some colleagues, who spoke on condition of anonymity, have expressed concern, however, because Coetzee is suffering from cancer and is said to be unable to work full time.

But Parliament's spokesperson, Luzuko Jacobs, denied this, saying Coetzee kept normal working hours. "At his level, however, he is expected, and does avail himself, to work beyond the eight working hours and on weekends whenever he is required to."

Jacobs said because of Coetzee's health, he did occasionally take time off to undergo treatment and convalesce, with Sisulu's and Mahlangu's full consent.

Wealth of experience
Moloto Mothapo, speaking on behalf of ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga, said Coetzee had a wealth of experience in the administration of Parliament. "We are hopeful that under his leadership Parliament's administrative arm will continue to spur the institution's constitutional programme, primarily its activist approach."

Democratic Alliance chief whip Watty Watson said his party was satisfied with Coetzee's competence. "My reservation has nothing to do with his competence and experience, but we should all have a buy-in on the appointment process."

Watson said he was aware of Coetzee's illness, "but if he was on crutches, in a wheelchair or had some disability, would we chase him away?"

The Congress of the People's Juli Kilian said: "We know he will ensure that Parliament will set the tone or a new standard for financial accountability."

Kilian said Coetzee's health was discussed at a multiparty forum when Parliament was informed about the decision to appoint him. "But he is responding very well to treatment," she said.

Coetzee declined to speak to the Mail & Guardian.

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