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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whistle blower protected from South African Parliament

The South African Parliament
Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.

Such is South Africa: Just when the news from the country gets you down something happens that demonstrates the character and strenght of its people and institutions.

Acting Labour Court Judge Mzo Ngcamu this week ruled that it would be a national embarrassment if Harry Charlton was found to be unprotected by whistle-blower laws. Ngcamu said it did not make any sense for Parliament to make laws that protected whistleblowers and then have those laws not apply to MPs who were guilty of criminal activities.

Parliament’s efforts to avoid explaining publicly why it fired former chief financial officer Charlton have suffered a major blow following Ngcamu's Labour Court ruling that Charlton was protected as a whistle-blower.

Charlton has consistently insisted that he was dismissed and persecuted as a member of the parliamentary staff for blowing the whistle on MPs guilty of stealing about R20m of taxpayers’ money in the Travelgate scandal.

Secretary to Parliament Zingile Dingani has said that Charlton was fired for financial mismanagement.

Ngcamu said: “The conclusion I have come to accords with the purpose of the Protected Disclosures Act to root out corruption. The applicant is protected by the PDA. To hold otherwise would deal a blow to government intentions and would be a national embarrassment.”

He said “evidence still has to be led to establish the true reason for the dismissal. It is only where such evidence has been led that it can be said whether the court has jurisdiction or not”.

The Open Democracy Advice Centre, which runs a special service to the public on access to information and whistle-blower protection, said it welcomed Ngcamu’s judgment. A spokesperson said: “We are particularly pleased that the judge underlined the absurdity of an outcome where staff in Parliament could not blow the whistle on corruption perpetrated by MPs.”

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