A parliamentary employee who tweeted that former president Jacob Zuma would be present at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday has been relieved of his duties.
Independent Media can exclusively reveal that Brent Simons, who is employed as the Information and Content Development Manager at Parliament, has been reprimanded and taken off social media duties for the erroneous tweet that sent the whole of South Africa into a tailspin.
Simons had previously testified against Zuma at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Simon’s unit falls under Parliamentary Communication Services and the section manager responsible for the unit is Shirley Montsho. A leaked email in Independent Media’s possession reads:
Dear Mr. Simons
Kindly note that you are excused from leading the social media team as well as twitting on behalf of the institution.
Thanks very much for your contribution
According to a source in parliament, at a management meeting on Wednesday, Montsho was the one who told her team that Zuma had confirmed he would attend SONA.
“This she did without prior consultation or confirmation of the Protocol people. Brent was, until yesterday (Wednesday), responsible for posting content on the parliamentary social media platforms, so he tweeted from that meeting that Zuma would attend SONA because his boss, Shirley, had said it openly in the meeting. It turned out Shirley jumped the gun. Brent has now been relieved of his tweeting duties until further notice but the person who should be facing the music is Shirley,” said the insider.
In August last year, Simons testified against Zuma at the Zondo Commission, accusing him of being untruthful when he said he had not instructed late minister Collins Chabane to fire Themba Maseko who was employed at the GCIS. Simons, who served as a chief director in the presidency also testified that he and Chabane had a good relationship.
Moloto Mothapo, the spokesperson of Parliament said: “Former presidents don’t get invited to SONA; they are automatically part of the event. However, their actual attendance is never confirmed unless they so indicate.
“As you would obviously know by now, the tweet by a staff member was unauthorized and erroneous and was immediately corrected once it was brought to our attention. Its foundation or circumstances is being looked at by myself as Spokesperson, as directed by the Presiding Officers. We cannot comment on this internal process.”
Mothapo did not confirm nor deny the Simons and Monstsho were behind the tweet. He also did not elaborate on what the social media policy of parliament entailed.
When contacted, Simons refused to comment.
“Chief, I am not allowed to speak to you. I am not confirming anything. I am sorry I cannot talk to you, thank you goodbye,” he said.