A tale of Phiyega, Cele and Mkhwanazi

2013-09-22 10:00

What happens when you compare key crime statistics for three periods: Bheki Cele’s first year as national police commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi’s first – and only – year in the hot seat and Riah Phiyega’s first year in the top job?

Quite simply, you begin to realise how much better both Cele and Mkhwanazi were at the job; and how, despite an admirable spin-doctoring attempt by Phiyega and her team on Thursday, they cannot obscure serious failures in the period under review.

On Phiyega’s watch, the police shot dead 34 protesting miners in Marikana – and, it emerged this week, allegedly doctored evidence they presented to the commission of inquiry into the killings. On Phiyega’s watch, murder, sex crimes and carjackings rose.

To be fair, the crimes police say rely most on detection also increased: more people were caught driving under the influence, more drugs were confiscated, and more illegal firearms and ammunition were found.

But let’s look at how Cele and Mkhwanazi fared.

When Cele first took to the podium to talk about crime statistics in 2010, murder, rape and carjacking fell. There were massive spikes in the number of drug busts and people arrested for driving under the influence.

There was a small increase in the number of people caught with illegal firearms or ammunition.

Mkhwanazi’s performance during his short stint also reflected well in the crime statistics last year. Murder, rape and carjacking dropped.

Drug and drunk driving busts climbed. There was a slight dip, from 14?472 to 14?461, in the number of people caught with illegal guns or ammunition.

Can we judge a police commissioner on statistics alone? Of course not. But couple this week’s figures – which some have labelled “devastating” – with the allegations of evidence tampering that have emerged at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, and it’s clear Phiyega is floundering.

Add that to the recent embarrassment of appointing – and then quickly sidelining – a Gauteng police commissioner who is facing criminal charges, and “floundering” becomes “failing”.

Madam Commissioner, you have many strengths and a great deal to contribute, but the police service needs a stronger leader, and one who can make SA believe in its men and women in blue. You are not that leader.

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