Parliament reaches settlement with whistleblower

“Vindicated and exonerated” is how former head of security at Parliament, Zelda Holtzman, reacted to a settlement that ended an almost two-year-long labour dispute.

Her case caused alarm over the treatment of whistle-blowers at Parliament. Civil society groups, including the Right to Know Campaign (R2K) expressed dismay last year over what it called the “victimisation of whistle-blowers” who speak out against the abuse of state resources.

Holtzman and her deputy head of security were suspended shortly after she raised concerns about the unauthorised use of “blue light” vehicles by the secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana and the appointment of police (SAPS members) to Parliament’s protection services. Parliament has since suspended and instituted disciplinary processes against Mgidlana.

In terms of the settlement reached on Tuesday, Parliament withdrew charges against Holtzman and reversed its decision last year to dismiss her. In turn, Holtzman withdrew her dispute lodged at the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration). The matter was meant to be heard this week.

As part of the settlement, Holtzman will receive a payout equal to eight months’ salary for the period from her dismissal in October to the expiration of her employment contract next month, Parliament said in a statement.

A disciplinary committee had earlier acquitted Holtzman on 11 of the 14 charges initially brought against her. Holtzman was going to challenge the findings of guilty on the three other charges in the CCMA. 

She has maintained that the disciplinary process was started with the intention to get rid of her and to avoid dealing “with the real issue at hand, which is the abuse of power, and investigating the allegations of unlawful action by the secretary of Parliament”, she told GroundUp.

Parliament Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said in a statement the agreement “brings the long, drawn-out dispute to an end and ends any relationship between Parliament and Ms Holtzman”.

Holtzman on Wednesday told GroundUp she was relieved. “My name is cleared. I feel vindicated. This was a long drawn out and unnecessary process. It should never have happened in the first place. It put a lot of strain on me and my family. I do not think it is something that anyone in this democracy should have to go through.”

Holtzman says she will now focus on her social activism work. “I am now free to continue with my activism and the struggle for justice and equality and will continue to fight abuse of power wherever it exists,” she said. ― GroundUp

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