Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Monday announced that Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais, would be acting as Community Safety MEC following the suspension of incumbent Albert Fritz who elected to step down amid sexual assault allegations.
“Minister Marais will ensure that the Department of Community Safety continues to respond to communities’ safety needs and to drive our important safety priorities,” said Winde through a media statement.
He added that while it was in his nature to be open and transparent with the province’s residents, he was, at this point, not at liberty to disclose details of the allegations as a result of specific requests by the complainants for the matter to be kept confidential.
“The seriousness of the allegations made and the rights of all parties to a fair and unprejudiced investigation into the veracity of the claims made, I may not do so at this stage. I have noted many rumours and reports by individuals who wish to politicise this matter. I will not play politics with the well-being of people and would like to urge anyone who views this matter as a political football to show restraint, especially in consideration of the requests made by the complainants and the rights of all to a fair process,” said Winde.
He promised to provide further updates as soon as possible.
Marais’ appointment as acting Community Safety MEC comes after Fritz asked his party bosses to allow him to step aside amid the sexual assault allegations, nine months into his tenure as the DA’s leader in the Western Cape.
Jaco Londt, the DA’s Western Cape chairperson, said: “I can confirm that Minister Fritz has requested that he be excused from his duties as leader until end of February. The provincial executive committee accepted this and the deputy leader, MEC Tertuis Simmers, will be acting leader for the time being. We view these allegations in a very serious light and the investigation must be allowed to run its course unhindered.”
Simmers, who was recently elected deputy provincial leader, is the Western Cape Human Settlements MEC.
In May 2021, Fritz was elected leader of the party’s biggest province.
Fritz took over as the DA’s interim leader in the Western Cape after the resignation of Bonginkosi Madikizela last year. Madikizela resigned after it was revealed that he falsely claimed on his CV that he had a BCom degree.
Earlier, News24 revealed that Fritz was suspended following serious allegations of sexual assault that were levelled against him by young employees.
Winde announced Fritz’s suspension late on Sunday evening without divulging the reasons for the decision.
A direct source who had knowledge of the suspension, however, said: “He [Fritz] allegedly sexually assaulted young female workers in his office.”
Four independent sources confirmed to News24 that sexual assault allegations were at the core of the suspension.
“This has been known since last year,” said a source. It was unclear whether criminal charges had been opened against Fritz.
Winde was expected to address community safety department employees on Monday. It was unclear whether other staff members would be suspended.
Asked for comment, Odette Cason, an official in Winde’s office, said: