Mangwashi Victoria “Riah” Phiyega made headlines this week when President Jacob Zuma picked her as the new South African Police Services (SAPS) chief.
A businesswoman with several high profile executive positions in the private sector, Phiyega is the first black woman to be appointed police commissioner. This follows the dramatic sacking of Bheki Cele by Zuma a fortnight ago.
Cele was fired after a board that investigated his fitness to hold office, “found he was unfit to lead the SAPS and that he should be relieved from his duties”.
This followed the damning report by the country’s public protector Thuli Madonsela against Cele, which said his improper and unlawful conduct amounted to maladministration for his involvement in the multi million rand lease deals.
In addressing the media in her first press conference since her appointment to the top job, Phiyega said it was a “first one in 99 years of policing history of this country”.
Some welcomed the appointment, whilst others were quick to point out that she was a civilian with no policing experience and was handed a poisoned chalice.
She will have to tackle South Africa’s high crime rate and deal with a 160 000 strong force and inspire the foot soldiers working hard to bring high crime levels down.
Phiyega said she was acutely aware of the challenges and said, “You don’t have to be a drunkard to own a bottle story”.
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She added: “I acknowledge the huge and overwhelming task ahead as I join a team of great men and women in blue. Alone we do so little, together we can do so much”.
Phiyega said that in order to succeed that it would be necessary to consult listen and learn.
The police services are at an all time low with infighting within its ranks.
The Institute for Security Studies, Johan Burger said, “the lack of operations is a problem and there can be no doubt about that” Most political parties welcomed Phiyega’s appointment.
The ANC’s Jackson Mthembu said Phiyega’s experience in the public service and her knowledge of public policy as well as her understanding of government will come in handy.
“In ensuring that she rises to the challenge of her new portfolio and the need of sustain our fight against crime and corruption within the police service,” Mthembu said.
The African Christian Democratic Party said “there is nothing one can say about the new commissioner Ria Phiyega safe to say that she showed her mettle while at ABSA (bank) and as chair of the committee charged with investigating the possibility to unite state owned enterprises.
“That type of administrative pedigree does not put her in the league of police managers”.
Phiyega said over the next three months she would focus on “engaging with internal and external stakeholder, learning and seeking inputs and counsel, in order to ensure that we maintain the momentum already achieved in the fight against crime”.
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