New correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser skipped his first pre-budget vote media briefing in Parliament on Thursday to attend an “urgent matter that had just arisen”.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha and Correctional Services Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla were in Parliament to hold a pre-budget vote briefing at noon.
However, former spy boss Fraser – the director general of the department – was nowhere to be seen, despite being in the parliamentary precinct.
Journalists then waited ten minutes as officials talked among themselves, seemingly trying to locate the national commissioner.
“There‘s some urgent matter that he has to attend to, that‘s why we had a bit of a delay, but we expect him to join us later when the actual budget is discussed,” Masutha eventually told journalists after the wait.
The matter had “just arisen”, but Fraser would join the rest of the team when the budget was tabled at 14:00 in the Old Assembly chamber, he said.
As for the controversy around Fraser and his abrupt transfer to the department, Masutha said they all “knew what the rules were” when it came to pending processes and allegations against an individual.
“We await those processes to run their course. Until then, we cannot be presumptuous and pre-emptive and judgemental, because sometimes allegations against people turn out not to be a true reflection of the real situation.
‘Pillar of strength‘
“Sometimes people are found guilty. You don‘t want to run on the basis of allegations that have not been finalised through processes, be it disciplinary or other nature.”
Fraser was seen in his correctional services department uniform in the Old Assembly when the debate commenced at 14:00.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha and deputy minister of correctional services Thabang Makwetla in Parliament for their pre-budget vote speech briefing. National commissioner missing in action.
— Paul Herman ()
Masutha maintained that Fraser‘s move to his department has been nothing but positive.
“Since he came to corrections, we have a had a good working relationship, and I‘m confident that, going forward, he will continue to be a pillar of strength in the management team of our organisation.”
Fraser himself has been silent about his transfer since moving last month from the State Security Agency.
He was moved by President Cyril Ramaphosa shortly before Inspector-General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe asked the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to bar Fraser from interfering with his duties.
Masutha was also asked by journalists about recent revelations during a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) meeting that right-wing terrorist group, the Boeremag, had alleged ties to service providers within the policing system.
IPID executive director Robert McBride told Scopa two weeks ago that he had alerted previous police commissioners about the alleged links to some in the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), reported.
FDA has since “strongly denied” that it has ties to the Boeremag, while Boervin, an organisation sympathetic to jailed members of the Boeremag, labelled the allegations as “false propaganda”.
“I must confess, I don‘t know much about it. I know that I am awaiting a report on the state of security in our correctional facilities,” Masutha answered.
“Once I‘ve received and perused that report, I might be in a better position to have an overall assessment on various security breaches which could include this aspect.”