Suicide official's claims on work bullying in parliament to be probed

26 November 2018 - 16:02 By Andisiwe Makinana
Preparations under way ahead of the state of the nation address in Cape Town on February 16 2018. Parliament is to investigate the circumstances around a section manager's suicide and whether enough attention was paid to his grievances.
Preparations under way ahead of the state of the nation address in Cape Town on February 16 2018. Parliament is to investigate the circumstances around a section manager's suicide and whether enough attention was paid to his grievances.
Image: GCIS

Parliament's investigation into the tragic suicide of Lennox Garane will also investigate the conditions under which he worked and whether the legislature did enough to address his grievances.

The legislature published the terms of reference for the inquiry in an internal memo seen by TimesLIVE on Friday, and they include probing the alleged bullying that Garane complained about in a number of documents sent to his bosses and their superiors.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise appointed the public service commission this month to investigate personnel practices pertaining to Garane, the section manager for multilateral relations who died by suicide in September.

"Specifically the investigation must assess whether relevant legislation, organisational policies and guidelines were properly applied in relation to his conditions of employment, and submit a report with findings and recommendations," read the terms of reference.

The investigation will include whether Garane was removed from his position and placed in a different position, the reasons for such removal and whether the procedure for the removal and placement in a different position were in accordance with the labour law, policies, practices and prescripts governing the parliamentary administration. Garane had highlighted this to be at the core of his problems with his superiors.

Parliament bosses also want the inquest to determine whether grievances lodged by Garane were duly processed in terms of the grievance procedures of parliament, whether the non-renewal of his contract of employment was lawful and justifiable, and the events immediately leading up to Garane's actions on September 14, including any information related to the breach of any security protocols.

The inquiry will be able to summon any official of Parliament to produce documents or testify on any matter relating to the investigation, under oath or affirmation. “The investigation may further invite any other persons who may be in possession of any information that can assist the investigation to produce same or to testify under oath or affirmation.”

Mbete and Modise have given the inquiry two months to complete its work.

Months before his suicide, Garane submitted a dossier to the joint standing committee on financial management of parliament, a committee that oversees the running of the institution's administration.

In it, he complained about bullying and abuse from his line manager. He also complained that he did not get any joy when he elevated the grievances to his manager's superiors who directed him to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) without attempting to resolve the grievance.

Garane turned to Mbete and Modise in a memorandum dated May 17, where he wrote that the essence of his original grievance was being moved from a position he was legally contracted to serve Parliament, without any due process in terms of the law, which he said was a gross violation of his right as an employee.

"Failure to conclude my grievance through a credible due process compromises my professional credibility extensively; and has the potential to affect my public management career going forward.

"It is with a sense of feeling prejudiced that I took the decision to write to you, honourable presiding officers, trusting that the step will help me receive basic workplace justice,” he said.

During a memorial service in Parliament, Garane's brother Sithembiso revealed that his brother had left a dossier documenting a toxic working environment in parliament. He also revealed that his brother had left a letter for his wife, in which he referred to his death as "a protest suicide against gross unfairness" in parliament.

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