Phiyega: Give me time to learn

Pretoria - One does not need to be drunkard to own a bottle store, newly-appointed police chief General Mangwashi Phiyega said on Thursday, when queried about her lack of 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," Phiyega told reporters in Pretoria.

"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."

‘Willing to work with anyone’

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."

Phiyega was appointed by President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, when he axed her predecessor Bheki Cele.

On Wednesday, Cele advised Phiyega to work with police officers who were out in the field every day, and not just the high-ranking officials.

"Work with the generals, but make sure you work most with your foot soldiers," he said.

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

Overwhelming task at hand

Phiyega said she heard Cele's message clearly knowing that this was what made him successful.

"We shall reach out," she said.

Phiyega said she acknowledged the overwhelming task she faced.

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

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much; this is however, a responsibility we should take with both hands, soldiering on and in delivering on the mandate South Africans have entrusted upon us."

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

Over the next three months she 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.

No details of strategies yet

Improving internal and external relations in the interest of service delivery, and taking a decisive position on corruption, was also a priority.

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."

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said at the briefing that Phiyega must be given the space to start doing her work before she outlines her vision.

"She needs to understand the environment first," he said.

Phiyega is the first woman national police commissioner in the 99 years of the police's history.
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