The Premier said he was “formally” made aware of the allegations in November 2021 and a number of processes took place before Fritz’s suspension on Sunday night, 23 January.
WINDE FIRST ALERTED TO ALLEGATIONS IN NOVEMBER
Winde immediately suspended Fritz on Sunday. He announced it in a short statement that did not disclose the nature of the allegations against the MEC.
It has since been alleged by the media, activists and other sources, that Fritz sexually abused young women within in his department.
Winde – who is yet to confirm the nature of the allegations – said he was first made aware of what was happening by a third party on 23 November.
“I immediately requested affidavits from the persons directly involved so that I could take action.
“Since that date, I have ensured that the complainants were afforded due care and empathy and that no pressure was placed on them, noting the nature of their complaints,” said Winde.
The Premier said the complainants handed over their affidavits 11 days ago (14 January), which he accepted before consulting the province’s legal services on the next steps to take.
Winde said more people have indicated that they would like to come forward – legal services have taken their statements.
“Following my meeting with the complainants, and after receiving legal advice, I felt I had sufficient information to immediately suspend the Minister and request an independent investigation into this matter,” said the Premier explaining his decision to suspend Fritz.
CRIMINAL CHARGES A POSSIBILITY
The Western Cape Government approached the State Attorney and informed them that an independent legal counsel would be appointed to conduct an external investigation into the allegations levelled at Fritz.
“We are currently awaiting confirmation from the State Attorney on the instruction, which we expect to receive imminently. I will provide the details of the appointee once confirmed.”
The Premier said he would make more information public once the external investigator has been appointed and they have told him how much he can disclose as the complaints have all approached him in confidence.
“The complainants who have approached me have been informed that they have the option to lay criminal charges too, and that any necessary support will be provided to them should they elect to do so,” said Winde.
The leader of the Western Cape Government said he is not in a position to lay criminal charges at the moment. However, he cannot rule out the possibility of charges being brought against Fritz in future if the investigation recommends it is necessary.
Winde also admonished members of the media who have allegedly made direct contact with provincial officials in order to learn the names of the complainants.
“The publication of their names, against their will, would be completely unacceptable, and the Western Cape Government will take whatever action necessary to ensure it is prevented.
“These complainants have brought these allegations to me under the strictest of confidence. To publish their names, against their will, will only add to the very serious stress and anxiety that they are feeling now, and possibly, deter others from coming forward in similar cases in future,” said Winde.