Police commissioners repent, make U-turn on support for Phiyega

2015-08-12 14:23
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega. (Deaan Vivier/Foto24)

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Eight of the country’s nine provincial police commissioners in an unprecedented step, one after the other, apologised to Parliament and the president today for their controversial statement in which they expressed their support for under-fire national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega. 

The commissioners appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, and were hauled over the coals for hours by members of Parliament from across the political spectrum. 

Furious committee members wanted to know who decided to release the statement while President Jacob Zuma was busy deciding Phiyega’s fate following the Farlam commission’s damning findings against her. 

Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, Phiyega’s spokesperson, said the decision was taken by the commissioners during a routine meeting in Limpopo in July. 

He maintained that the commissioners were not acting on instructions from anyone, but later admitted that Phiyega had attended the meeting. 

Before the statement was released, said Makgale, it was approved by all the provincial commissioners, but not by Phiyega. 

“The national commissioner did not sign off on this particular statement.” 

Democratic Alliance member of Parliament Dianne Kohler Barnard called the statement “outrageous”. 

“She sat there while her praise singers worked out how to make her life better. You know what the Marikana report said and that is why you sent out the statement.” 

The Farlam commission of inquiry into the massacre at Marikana found that Phiyega was dishonest when giving testimony before the committee. 

Freedom Front Plus MP Dr Pieter Groenewald said the commissioners were “an insult to the committee”. 

“Do you think that we are idiots? Do you think the national commissioner can chair a meeting and not say anything? I now understand the Farlam commission. You have learnt well from your national commissioner [in being dishonest]. You are an insult to the South African Police Service.” 

Committee chairperson Francois Beukman said it was the police’s job to protect South Africans, not to play political games. 

“There should not be a blurring of the roles.” 

The commissioners did not have the right to issue a statement. 

“[You] can not say hands off. Really, that is what you would expect at university campuses, not in a professional organisation. Otherwise we will have serious ruptures.” 

The commissioners and Makgale insisted that it was not their intention to slight procedures or the president. 

They retracted the controversial statement and, one after the other, took the microphone and apologised to the president, the committee and Parliament. 

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial commissioner, Mmamonnye Ngobeni, was on study leave and was not present. 

Read more on:    riah phiyega  |  marikana

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