Police in trouble for ‘political’ comments

2015-08-24 11:18
(Tammy Petersen, News24)

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Nine senior police commissioners who pledged support for troubled national police commissioner Riah Phiyega may yet rue that decision for a long time.

Parliament is launching an unprecedented investigation into top police bosses over their support of Phiyega, amid accusations that they may have entered the political terrain in voicing their support. 

The exact scope of the investigation will be determined later this week in the next meeting of Parliament’s portfolio committee on police which exercises oversight on all police-related matters. 

The committee took a decision this week to investigate the context in which the police commissioners made the decision to issue a press statement in support of Phiyega. The investigation will be conducted under rule 201 of the National Assembly rule book which stipulates the functions of portfolio committees. 

Chairperson of the police portfolio committee Francois Beukman told City Press on Friday that the terms of reference for the investigation will be tabled at the committee’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Friday. 

MPs from across the political party spectrum criticised provincial police commissioners for issuing a press statement on August 1 – the day after Phiyega presented her submission to President Jacob Zuma on why she should keep her job. 

This followed the recommendation from the Farlam commission, which had investigated events around the Marikana massacre, that an inquiry be launched into Phiyega’s fitness for office. 

In their press statement, the nine provincial police bosses declared their “full support” for Phiyega saying they “fully endorse her efforts in turning around the South African Police Service”. 

They wrote: “The board of commissioners of the police service, a structure representing the nine provincial commissioners, is concerned about the prevailing unfair and largely negative attitude towards the national commissioner ... General Riah Phiyega. 

“The board has noticed a tendency to reduce everything, especially negative issues relating to policing, to the person of the national commissioner, as if the [police service] is a one-person show.” 

Ten days after issuing the statement, they were forced to withdraw and apologise, in a dramatic fashion, by the MPs in the portfolio committee. 

The police leaders were made to apologise one by one for the statement to Parliament, the committee and the president. 
But the day after the apologies, they issued another press statement to “correct the misconceptions created” by their initial press statement. 

In it, they wrote that the portfolio committee had been of the view that their initial statement had unintended consequences in that it created an impression that the board was pre-empting the process that the president had initiated following the release of the Marikana commission’s report. 

This week, MPs again grilled them about the second statement. They wanted each provincial commissioner to state whether they align themselves with the apology to Parliament, the president and MPs or if they stood by their statements. 

Four out of nine reaffirmed their apology, while others remained defiant. 

“We must get the context ... what really happened and how it all came about. Our view is that those statements could be directly or indirectly perceived as trying to influence the process [Zuma’s determination on Phiyega],” Beukman told City Press. 

He said from a corporate governance view, you can’t have in a government department everybody issuing statements on issues like that, especially in a strong hierarchical environment like the SAPS. 

“There needs to be strict adherence to protocol. 

“So, the investigation is really to determine whether the relevant protocol was followed and whether what was said at the portfolio committee meeting was correct … we will then do recommendations,” he said. 

Beukman said if the need rose the committee would call witnesses to give evidence to its investigation. 

The portfolio committee had already received the minutes of the meeting in Magoebaskloof where the decision to support Phiyega was taken in her presence. But it has now demanded the original electronic recording, the agenda and the attendance register of that meeting.

Read more on:    riah phiyega  |  police

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