Riah Phiyega ‘lacks experience’

2013-10-31 13:56

A lack of experience and a police service in crisis has marred General Riah Phiyega’s term as national commissioner, the Institute for Security Studies has said.

“It is Riah Phiyega’s lack of experience and understanding of (the) police and its responsibilities and on top of that the huge problems police have been facing for many years now,” senior researcher Johan Burger said today.

“It is too big for one person to solve all on their own.”

Burger said the SA Police Service was a unique organisation with unique responsibilities, which Phiyega did not seem to understand.

After a month in office, Phiyega was faced with the Marikana shooting, where police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking mine workers, wounded 70, and arrested 250 on August 16 last year during violent protests at the Lonmin Platinum mine near Rustenburg in North West.

In February this year, Mido Macia, a taxi driver and Mozambican national, was tied to the back of a police van and dragged along a street in Daveyton.

An eyewitness filmed the assault. Macia was found dead in the local police station’s holding cells several hours later.

In addition to the controversial behaviour of police officers, Phiyega had made a few questionable decisions as national police commissioner.

In August, she announced the appointment of the new Gauteng provincial commissioner.

But she had to withdraw the appointment hours after making the announcement when it emerged that Lieutenant General Bethuel Mondli Zuma was facing a criminal investigation.

Burger said the police service was in crisis.

In October, Phiyega announced that acting head of crime intelligence Major General Chris Ngcobo had been put on special leave and criminal investigations and disciplinary action against him were going to be initiated.

This was because discrepancies were found between the declaration made by Ngcobo and official records pertaining to his qualifications, she said.

Now Phiyega herself is facing criminal charges for defeating the ends of justice.

She is accused of tipping off Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer about investigations against him.

Burger said this alone was an example of Phiyega’s lack of understanding.

“What she is now being accused of shows she has no understanding of how criminal investigations are conducted.

“What is her understanding of the Criminal Procedure Act? It’s the basic act that guides the police service, I wonder if she even looked at the Police Service Act,” he said.

It would be in Phiyega’s best interests and the interests of the police service for her to step aside while the probe into her conduct was pending, said Burger.

This was provided for in sections eight and nine of the Police Service Act. Pending the outcome of the investigation, President Jacob Zuma should consider suspending Phiyega, he said.

“If you want a completely independent investigation with no risk or suspicion of undue influence, you need to remove the person who is under investigation.

“It is also important for the person being investigated. It must be incredibly difficult to carry on with your daily work when everyone knows you are being investigated.”

Phiyega, as national commissioner, was also the only person who could suspend a provincial police commissioner.

“How does she now apply her mind when she is facing allegations?

“For that reason alone, it should be considered to remove her temporarily, and appoint an acting commissioner who is not at the heart of any allegations, who can take a decision to suspend the provincial commissioner,” said Burger.

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