The South African Police Service (Saps) in the Western Cape have opened an inquiry into sexual assault allegations against suspended Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz.
This was confirmed on Thursday by Brigadier Novela Potelwa, spokesperson of Western Cape Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Thembisile Patekile.
According to Potelwa, the inquiry was opened while police wait for “key pertinent documentation” before a case could be registered.
Potelwa was reacting to media inquiries after the ANC’s Western Cape leader in the provincial legislature, Cameron Dugmore, wrote to Patekile’s office requesting an investigation into the allegations levelled against Fritz.
“The office of the provincial commissioner acknowledges receipt of correspondence from the ANC in the Western Cape. The letter in question forms part of a series of engagements by various parties with regard to the matter raised,” she said in a statement.
Potelwa added: “The doors of the Saps remain open for all victims of the crime to open cases with the necessary support availed to them by police.
“It also begs to mention that gender-based violence still is one of the priorities of the Saps. Our specialist detectives located within the FCS [Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences] units are always on hand to investigate reported cases.”
External investigator appointed
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Wednesday announced that Advocate Jennifer Williams had been appointed by the State Attorney as an independent legal counsel to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Fritz.
Williams is a former director of the Women’s Legal Centre and an advocate at the Cape Bar.
Winde committed to publicly release the findings of the investigation once it was concluded.
“I will communicate the outcome of the investigation and take such steps as may be necessary or appropriate upon its finalisation.
“I have full faith that this investigation will be conducted with the integrity that it deserves,” the premier said in a statement.
When Winde first announced Fritz’s suspension on Sunday, he said it was due to “serious allegations” of misconduct and did not divulge further details behind the claims.
The ANC in the province has accused the premier and the Democratic Alliance (DA) of a cover-up over the scandal and believes that he is dealing with a criminal matter in an administrative manner.
This was after it emerged through sources and media reports that the allegations against Fritz were of a sexual nature.
Several women have reportedly come forward accusing the MEC of sexual assault, with the complaints apparently coming from interns who worked in Fritz’s office and employees of the Expanded Public Works Programme.
Four officials from his office were also suspended after being implicated in alleged acts of grooming and intoxicating the young women before they were allegedly sexually abused, News24 reported.
The officials included Fritz’s spokesperson Wade Seale, the head of the community safety department David Abrahams, support officer Michael Kwaaiman and another official, Lazola Ndubela.
On Tuesday, Winde revealed that the initial allegations against Fritz were first brought to his attention by a third party informally on 23 November 2021.
He said he immediately requested affidavits from the persons directly involved, and ensured that the complainants were “afforded due care and empathy and that no pressure was placed on them, noting the nature of their complaints.”
The premier did not rule out the possibility of laying criminal charges against the MEC once the investigation is done.
He said the complainants who approached him were also informed that they had the option to lay criminal charges too.