No apologies for affirmative action, says Phiyega

“We need to ensure that affirmative action does not get stunted,” National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told delegates at a Black Management Forum conference in Johannesburg. “Let’s stop being apologetic about things we need to do.” 

Phiyega said affirmative action was a conscious attempt to redress past injustices and it should continue, but within the confines of the Constitution.

Barnard court case
She referred to the recent court case involving former police officer Renate Barnard. In September the Constitutional Court set aside an order of the Supreme Court of Appeal that the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) had discriminated against Barnard by not promoting her. Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said in his majority judgment that the SAPS employment equity plan was not challenged. 

The court found the police commissioner acted lawfully and rationally in implementing the plan in Barnard’s case. Barnard’s affirmative action case went back to 2005, when she applied for the post of lieutenant-colonel, which at that time was superintendent in terms of the old police rankings.

She twice applied unsuccessfully for promotion to superintendent within the police’s national evaluation service, which deals with complaints by the public and public officials about police services. 

Despite recommendations by an interview panel and her divisional commissioner, the national police commissioner did not appoint her to the position, saying that racial representation at the level of superintendent would be negatively affected. Phiyega said Barnard was promoted to the level she needed to be, albeit in a different section. She said there was an opening in that department that allowed for her to be promoted.

Phiyega criticised labour union Solidarity for what she called meddling in police affairs and for hampering the promotion of police officers. “We have been trying to promote members who serve, protect and ensure the safety of the country, but we are constantly being interdicted by Solidarity. It has been two years that we have been in that position,” she said. – Sapa

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