Deputy national police commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela has been tipped to act in his boss’s place when General Riah Phiyega is suspended by President Jacob Zuma.On Friday night, the presidency released a statement saying Zuma had written to Phiyega asking her to provide reasons she should not be suspended pending an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.Three senior police sources told City Press that those in the running include Mawela, who heads the national joint operational and intelligence structure (Natjoints); as well as deputy national commissioners Kehla Sithole, head of policing operation, and Nobubele Mbekela, head of corporate service management.But the three said Mawela was leading the pack and it is widely understood within the police service that he will act in Phiyega’s absence.One of the sources told City Press: "This has already created animosity among Phiyega's deputies as they think they are being overlooked."However, the sources were unable to confirm whether Mawela would replace Phiyega permanently, were she to be fired.Mawela, the divisional commissioner for operational response services, who is responsible for maintaining public order, is understood to be close to Phiyega.Phiyega has come under fire this week for her SMSes to the police union and the DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard.On Saturday, it emerged that the SA Policing Union was suing Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Nhleko for R1m in damages for defamation after Phiyega sent a "defamatory" SMS to the union’s secretary-general, Oscar Skommere.City Press has seen a letter from the union’s attorneys, dated November 2014, demanding R500 000 each from Nhleko and Phiyega.The letter states that Phiyega wrote in her SMS: "The SAPS is not a kitchen as you allege. Your statement is very sexist and unfortunate. You cannot wish Basadi away. We present a different and capable polarity. What you articulated is unfortunately raw chauvinism and it has no space in our democratic dispensation."I am sure the public shall appreciate the voices of a woman on this one."You relentlessly present a right wing attitude in most of your statements. I am available to engage. Talking of me through the media is cowardly. Riah Phiyega."This week, she also sent an SMS to MP and DA police spokesperson Kohler Barnard, which Kohler Barnard showed to the parliamentary portfolio committee on police this week.Phiyega and her spokesperson, Solomon Makgale, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday and on Saturday.The presidency said the inquiry into Phiyega would investigate "allegations of misconduct and/or lack of fitness for the office that she occupies and/or her ability to execute her duties efficiently... and any other conduct which may have a bearing on her position as Head of the Police Service".The senior police sources said President Zuma had given Phiyega seven days in which to make written representations why she should not be suspended from active duty.