Mthethwa defends top cop Phiyega's appointment
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Newly appointed national police commissioner Mangwashi Phiyega on Thursday decried her lack of experience in policing. “I have never been a police officer, but you don’t have to be a drunkard to own a bottle store. Using the principle, I believe we can succeed. I don’t have experience but give me 12 months and judge me on the outcomes,” Phiyega said at her first press conference as commissioner.
Phiyega was controversially appointed police chief by President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday.
She has no policing experience, is a trained social worker and has worked as an executive for institutions ranging from Transnet to Absa. She was recently appointed as chairperson of the presidential state owned enterprises review committee and is vice chair for the independent commission for remuneration of public office bearers.
Phiyega said by working together with senior police officers, she would succeed in the fight against crime. “I go back to my kindergarten time. Seeking counsel, learning and listening. They can hold my hand and we can make it happen,” she said.
Phiyega also said she will reach out to the “foot soldiers” of the SAPS to make sure they all work together.
Her sentiments were echoed by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who flanked Phiyega at the briefing.
“This principle of the drunkard and the bottle store is very relevant. Was the giant IBM rescued by an IT specialist? No. The same with General Electric, Jack Welch (former GE CEO), is he an engineer? No.”
“It really doesn’t matter what experience the commissioner has,” he said.
In response to questions on how she would shape the police force in her own form, Phiyega said she planned to combat crime with the same tenacity and aggression as her predecessor, Bheki Cele.
“I cannot fault the spirit and momentum that has been created by the past leadership of the SAPS. It was was necessary at that point in time and it continues to be.
“No criminal must feel comfortable in our country,” she said.
Cele was criticised during his tenure as top cop for his bombastic approach to crime fighting, where he encouraged officers to “fight fire with fire” and “shoot to kill”.
Even though crime statistics showed a marginal improvement under Cele’s reign, there was also an increase in the number of complaints against the police with the Independent Complaints Directorate.
Phiyega said she would work towards providing a police service that is caring and sensitive to the needs of all South Africans.
“We want our public to want to give the SAPS officers a hug when they see them. To give them a glass of water. To be proud of them. Let’s take some Phuza Amandla and some Red Bull and start building that type of police service. Nothing is insurmountable. We have been charged to rescue the situation and we will do so,” she said.