Phiyega wants to boost police image

2012-06-14 22:45
Newly-appointed police chief Mangwashi Phiyega says she wants to build a positive image for the SA Police Service. (File, Sapa)

Newly-appointed police chief Mangwashi Phiyega says she wants to build a positive image for the SA Police Service. (File, Sapa)

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Phiyega acknowledges huge task

2012-06-15 07:55

Newly-appointed police chief Mangwashi Phiyega wants to build a positive image for the SA Police Service, but acknowledges she faces an overwhelming task in her new role. WATCH

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Pretoria - Newly-appointed police chief Mangwashi Phiyega on Thursday said she wanted to build a positive image for the SA Police Service (SAPS).

"It's a process... it's a journey [that will] allow us to take some Red Bull [energy drink] so we can go on with the process," Phiyega told reporters in Pretoria.

"I am ready to come serve."

Phiyega said she wanted South Africans to have confidence in the police, trust them and feel safe.
She said she acknowledged the overwhelming task she faced.

"In order to succeed, I acknowledge that it is necessary to consult, listen and learn."

This would be complemented by leading and acting decisively, she said.

"We will be working towards a paradigm shift in the police. The training and development of our members will remain a priority... Strengthening the administrative leg will also be top on the agenda," she said.

In answer to questions regarding the allegations of political interference within the police, Phiyega said it was an issue which needed to be debated.

"If there is merit or no merit [to allegations of political interference], for me the jury is still out," Phiyega told reporters in Pretoria.

"Are we confused about issues of political interference?" she asked.

Phiyega said it was a case of political interference versus political involvement.

"You get the political side of the police."

She said those on the political side of the police were elected by the people of South Africa.

It needed to be debated whether political involvement was getting confused with political interference.

"With experience, I will give a better interpretation," said Phiyega.

Tackling corruption

Tackling corruption was high on her priority list.

"There is corruption in the system... something needs to be done."

She said it was "everywhere".

Over the next three months Phiyega would hold discussions with many police officers.

"We will be working towards a paradigm shift in the police. The training and development of our members will remain a priority... Strengthening the administrative leg will also be top on the agenda," she said.

Improving internal and external relations in the interest of service delivery, and taking a decisive position on corruption, were priorities.

Phiyega said she would meet police senior management on Friday, but would not give details on the strategies going forward.

"I am looking forward to wearing the blue uniform, taking my oath and getting involved with the business of policing."

Phiyega is the first woman national police commissioner in the 99 years of the SA police's history. Women first joined the police force in 1972.

Management-speak

But concerns still remain about her lack of policing experience, and that she may not connect with what her predecessor Bheki Cele refers to as the "foot soldiers".

Although Phiyega had a strong background in administration, Cele said the job of police commissioner had little to do with administration and more to do with the work on the ground - "being in the trenches with the men and women in blue".

"Work with the generals but make sure you work most with your foot soldiers," he advised her during a news conference on Wednesday.

"Take care of the foot soldiers - they are the people fighting crime."

Despite saying that she heard Cele's message clearly, knowing that this was what had made him successful, she appeared to have difficulty adjusting - verbally at least - to her new role.

Her comments were laden with management-speak about "strategic directions", "stakeholders" and "paradigm shifts".

"We believe that human capital investment adds value," she said, commenting about police training.

"The fact that she is a woman is not a problem. My concern is with her lack of experience with the police as an organisation and policing as a function," Johan Burger of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies told Reuters.

"She is going to find it extremely difficult to come into an organisation that is already fraught with so many problems," he said.

But, Phiyega seemed unperturbed about concerns about her policing experience.

"I've never been a police [officer], but I want to say that you don't need to be a drunkard to own a bottle store.

"I can learn... judge me in 12 months time on whether I have a poor learning capacity."

Phiyega acknowledged she did not have all the tools necessary for the job, but said she brought a wealth of other experiences.

"No one is ever complete, but we all have something to give and I believe I have something to give."

Asked how she felt about a police union saying it was an insult that a civilian was appointed as a police commissioner, Phiyega said she was not qualified to deal with that.

However, she added: "I'm prepared to work with anyone who will accept me."

Just another politician


As an outsider, she has the benefit of not being part of internecine police struggles, the most recent being the on-again, off-again suspension of crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, Reuters reports.

However, as an outsider she is also treading in two sets of heavily tainted footsteps in Cele and his predecessor Jackie Selebi.

"This one - she is just another politician," one warrant officer at a Johannesburg police station told Reuters, with a dismissive wave of his hand.

While promoting an insider would have been better for police morale - and probably efficiency - it would have run against the grain of an ANC leadership increasingly reluctant to cede control in any sphere of public life.

"She's clean and cannot help but bring a new perspective to the post, but the hope the ANC would not make a political appointment to this position was always destined to end in disappointment," said political analyst Nic Borain.

"The ANC, especially Zuma's ANC, is very careful to keep its hand on what used to be called the 'repressive state apparatus'."

- SAPA
Read more on:    police  |  riah phiyega  |  jacob zuma  |  bheki cele
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