‘Phiyega won’t go quietly’

2015-06-27 08:21
Police stand over the bodies of the striking miners who got shot in August 2012

Police stand over the bodies of the striking miners who got shot in August 2012 (Leon Sadiki/City Press)

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Durban - The assumption that the potential sacking of national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega may have any effect on the police leadership throughout the country, including KwaZulu-Natal, may be a stretch, believes a KwaZulu-Natal police analyst.

Mary de Haas, who has spent much of the country’s democratic history documenting violence in the province, believes that a sudden turnaround in the SAPS and how it operates will remain unlikely as long as senior police appointments are politically linked. Phiyega will soon be subjected to an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

This was announced on Thursday by President Jacob Zuma when he released the nearly 700 page Marikana Report. The report was the result of an extensive commission of inquiry into the deaths at the North West province mine owned by Lonmin in December 2012 when 34 people were gunned down by the police. A further 10 people, including police officers, had been killed in the days prior.

While the blame for the tragedy has been evenly spread between the SAPS, the two unions NUM and Amcu and Lonmin, the police, notably Phiyega, have been lambasted for being spare with the truth and swayed by political interference.

“I don’t think if Phiyega goes KwaZulu-Natal SAPS Commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, for example, will follow and if there is a shake-up it will take a long time to ripple down,” said De Haas.

It has long been speculated that Ngobeni, initially appointed by fired police commissioner Bheki Cele, who was implicated in a multi-million rand property scandal, has a special relationship with Phiyega.

Ngobeni’s tenure, which was extended for another five years in 2014, has long been dogged with claims of corruption, dubious relationships, cover-ups and purges yet to date she has remained unscathed.

In June it was reported that the police’s own graft-busting unit, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), made recommendations that Ngobeni and three other officers be suspended and face a departmental probe. The report has been submitted for consideration to the Director of Public Prosecutions for decision and will join a long queue of highly contentious decisions that the Pietermaritzburg-raised new NPA head Shaun Abrahams will have to deal with.

What is commonly agreed upon, however, is that in the interests of political expediency Phiyega will likely be sacrificed to protect the political national executive.

De Haas said a shake-up within the police will largely depend on who is appointed to replace her.

“The police has become hugely politicised and even if someone is up for the post the service is still a large bureaucracy. Change will not happen automatically.”

But calls for Phiyega to stand aside are not new. The most recent incident involved her interference into an investigation into the now suspended Western Cape Police Chief Arno Lamoer, by tipping him off of the investigation. He has since been charged on more than 100 charges including racketeering and corruption.

If Phiyega falls there is a likelihood she could wage a bloody battle to take others with her

Read more on:    riah phiyega  |  marikana inquiry

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