26 September 2018

South Africa: Police Take Disciplinary Steps Against Officer After Suicide At Parliament

Photo: Supplied
Left: Lennox Garane. Right: An image macro featuring text from a statement by the family of Lennox Garane.

A police officer faces disciplinary proceedings after a parliamentary official committed suicide on the legislature's precinct two weeks ago - an incident which has raised security concerns at the national key point.

Lennox Garane, section manager for policy in the international relations and protocol division of Parliament, took his own life in his office on Friday, September 14.

Since then, there have been many questions about how he managed to get a gun onto the premises.

On Wednesday, the police told a joint meeting of the portfolio committees of police and public works on Wednesday that when Garane entered the 90 Plein Street building, where his office was based, he displayed his permit in the direction of the police's static protector stationed at the entrance. However, he walked through without placing his bag through the x-ray machine.

"The static protector contravened the Static Protection Standard Operating Procedure by allowing Mr Garane to gain access to the building without screening," Major General Leon Rabie told the committees.

"The static protector in question was served on 15 September 2018 with a Notice of Intended Suspension ito Disciplinary Regulation 10(2) of the SAPS Discipline Regulations, 2016."

According to Rabie, a co-worker said Garane appeared despondent when he arrived at his office and said something of "wishing to say farewell".

An official from Parliament Wellness and Health was called and went to speak to Garane in his office. The official arranged for an ambulance to take him to hospital.

Garane locked his office after the official left. The official did not see a firearm at the time.

The firearm used in the incident is a licensed CZ9 mm short pistol registered in Garane's name.

A suicide letter was found on the table of a staff member who worked with him.

Rabie also presented some "security deficiencies" identified at Parliament since the incident.

From October 1, the security measures will be enforced more strictly and the presiding officers will be asked to convene a joint planning committee for Parliament where matters, such as challenges with equipment and the layout of access points and utilisation of technology in the securing of the parliamentary precinct, could be raised with the Department of Public Works.

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said it was not for the MPs to apportion blame.

"No one can guard an individual on what he does in his own house or office," she said. She added that they needed to find workable solutions.

DA MP Dennis Ryder said the security system at Parliament generally worked but that he had seen instances where MPs refused to co-operate and who asked the security staff if they knew who they were.

FF Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said there should be a balance between the security measures and Parliament being a people's Parliament.

"The weakest link was a lack of discipline by a static protector," he said.

DA MP Zakhele Mbhele was concerned that the morale of the police officers at Parliament contributed to lax security enforcement.

ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane asked that the security measures not be dealt with through a heavy-handed approach because he was concerned about the militarisation of Parliament.

Police Minister Bheki Cele agreed that "we should not use a sledgehammer to kill a fly". He also agreed with Kohler Barnard that now was not the time for the blame game.

"I do have evidence of people saying: 'Do you know who I am?' Most of the officers here are constables. They are very junior. Once an MP says this, it pushes these guys down."

He called on MPs, ministers and officials to co-operate.

Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Khehla Sitole said the Constitution held the police responsible for safety at Parliament, but the budget was allocated to the Department of Public Works. He asked Parliament to review this policy.

Source: News24

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