Thursday, March 03, 2022

'This was About Justice': Winde Justifies Firing of Fritz to Parliament Committee

Photo via Samantha Lee-Jacobs/People's Post

Following the release of a report from the DA Federal Executive, Western Cape Premiere Alan Winde announced Tuesday MEC Albert Fritz would be fired. Fritz has been embroiled in a sexual assault and alcohol abuse scandal for weeks.

Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Cultural Affairs and Sport met to discuss the situation and how to move forward.

MEC Albert Fritz was suspended last month as the investigation into sexual assault allegations took place. The investigation concluded Sunday and confirmed Fritz was involved in sexual misconduct.

In a statement released Tuesday, Premiere Alan Winde said the content of the report was disturbing. Winde removed Fritz from office Tuesday and Fritz resigned from the DA party in response.

Fritz himself has disputed the report and called it unfair. He said he would dispute the findings in court, calling it “political orchestration in order to assassinate my character and ensure my departure from political and executive office.”

The Standing Committee on Cultural Affairs and Sport hosted an emergency meeting yesterday which included both Premiere Winde and the investigator of the sexual assault allegations, Advocate Jennifer Williams.

At the meeting, members of the committee demanded to see the full report. Thus far, only a four-page document has been provided which includes an executive summary and conclusions from the findings.

Williams said the full document is more than to 80 pages, but she would not release it to the public because it would name the victims that came forward against Fritz and her goal was to protect the women as much as possible.

The advocate added some of the members who came forward are still employed within the safety department, where Fritz was the MEC.

One of the other questions addressed at the meeting was the political nature of this report. There has been speculation within the provincial Parliament and the public that Winde set out to fire Fritz on a political conspiracy.

Winde and Williams both strongly denied those rumors and any speculation of conspiracy. They both said there were far too many people involved in the allegations for this to be a political attack.        

"This was not politically motivated," Winde said. "This was about justice that gender-based violence is dealt with decisively and that people are given a proper platform to deal with this and there are consequences."

Members also pressed about the details of the allegations. Williams said there was a troubling pattern of behavior. The first allegations against Fritz date back to 2018 and were believed to continue. She also said it is likely more women had stories about Fritz that were not included in the report.

"The allegations range from sexual comments, inappropriate touching, attempts to kiss and kissing without consent and sexual intercourse," Williams said. "They range over a number of years and a number of incidents."

William said at least one of the complainants was under the age of 21 and some of them were still employed by the provincial government.

The report issued by Williams included 18 interviews, which included both men and women. Some provided official evidence while others were corroborators. The witnesses submitted photographs, emails, videos, text messages and correspondence in support of various aspects of their evidence, all of which were considered.

The report concluded there is sufficient credibility in the allegations of sexual misconduct; there is sufficient credibility in the allegations of alcohol abuse; and there is sufficient evidence of MEC Fritz creating an environment that is conducive to sexual harassment, or alternatively, taking advantage of young women sexually.   

Winde said making the choice to fire Fritz was difficult and frustrating because the two had worked together for so long. However, he said he believed the credibility of the report made it necessary to take action because Fritz was no longer fit to be in the provincial cabinet.

"I was angry. I was disappointed. I worked with him, and this is difficult stuff," Winde said. "There is no party political interference in this. I take my job very seriously. I was on an emotional rollercoaster."

The Premiere said the next step of this process is taking Fritz’s case to court. Winde said he hopes this becomes a step toward progress on the issue of gender based violence.

Winde said the incident with Fritz is troubling but that it can be a symbol of the horrors of GBV. He concluded the meeting with a call to action to the people of the Western Cape to seek justice for all victims of GBV.


By Ben Rappaport

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