10 January 2019

Joya Garane

South Africa: Statement by Garane Family - Public Service Commission Investigation Into Lennox Garane Protest Suicide

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

On the 14th December 2018, the Public Service Commission (PSC) visited our home as part of their investigation into the personnel practices leading to our father’s suicide at the parliament precinct on the 14th September 2018. Present and leading the conversation was the Chairperson of PSC, Adv Sizani, accompanied by Adv Makinde. We wish to thank the office of the PSC for its consummate and empathetic manner in which it dealt with the family.

Prior to this visit, the family had solicited wide-ranging opinions from legal and public administration professionals on the terms of reference (ToR) released by Parliament. We then sought clarity from the presiding offices on matters we deemed important in this investigation; this included the jurisdiction of PSC over parliament and the reporting structure. Moreover, the family exercised its option (as promised and invited by the presiding officers) to suggest amendment to the ToR. Our opinion of PSC’s purview, derived from s195 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Public Service Act (1996) and Public Service Commission Act (1997) jointly, is that it does not extend to parliament. Parliament believe that PSC does have jurisdiction over all organs of state. To this effect, we further wrote to the PSC to get its own view on, among other things, whether it has jurisdiction over Parliament. The PSC’s response is expected in mid-January 2019.

The family also has serious misgivings about the commission reporting to the Presiding officers, whom we believe to be answerable in this investigation as well. Consequently, we suggested that the PSC has dual reporting lines; to the Executive Authority and the Joint Standing Committee in Financial Management (JSCFM). This, we thought, would have been a sound compromise for the integrity of the investigation to be upheld. This was summarily dismissed by Parliament, through Mr Xaso who responded on behalf of the Presiding Officers. In his letter, Xaso said “we note your objection to the PSC reporting to the Executive Authority and wish to confirm that the Executive Authority will determine the appropriate process to deal with the PSC report, having due regard to “fairness and neutrality” and will in all probability share the report with the JSCFM”. This was neither a pronouncement that the Presiding Officers will share the letter with the JSCFM nor a recognition of the family’s need to do away with the glaring conflict. Rather, we viewed this as a lethargic attempt to leave room for potential maneuver. Unfortunately, this only further increased our distrust for the parliamentary system in its commitment to administrative justice.

The family further asked for an expansion of the ToR from “personnel practices and related matters” to “institutional failures with regards to labour relations”. Both these are within the remit of the PSC. Also, it is now public knowledge that what was meted against Lennox was not an isolated incident. He knew that those who were directly practicing callous acts towards him, and many others, were only doing so because there was a grand scale bullying and victimization at an institutional level. We urged Parliament or the Executive Authority to be honest about fixing the malpractices and institute an institutional investigation rather than an incidental one. This suggestion, too, was politely turned down by Parliament; stating that “this was meant to address the matter of Mr Garane” and “should the PSC report indicate a need for a broader investigation, that will be considered”. We do not think the two are mutually exclusive, infact they are inextricably linked and need to be understood as such. It is our belief that individualisation of institutional or societal issues will only lead to misdiagnosis of the problem and thus not yield the intended results.

We would like to emphasize the we hold the PSC in very high regard and do not doubt their competence. However, the strength of their remedial actions and the depth of the investigation is only limited by the ToR. As a result, the family has written to the PSC with some requests which will only be made public after we have received the response from the commission.

With regards to the investigation, the family was happy to give its own account on what it believes to have led to the untimely loss of a loved one. Almost four months later, we are still trying to make sense of the September 14th ordeal and all the named perpetrators are still cushioned by Parliament leadership.

We are hopeful that our father’s protest action will at least bring about the administrative justice he so yearned for; not only in parliament but in all public service.

We now call on the presiding officers to commit to making the PSC report public and share it with the JSCFM.

We also reiterate our initial call to put all named individuals in this matter on suspension pending the investigation for we have heard of acts of intimidation already.

Lastly, upon receipt of the PSC report the family intends reporting all these accused political appointees to their respective party disciplinary committee and recommend expulsion for bringing their party into disrepute.

Kind Regards

Garane Family

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