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12 Aug 2015 15:51
Chairperson of the police committee Francois Beukman in Parliament on Wednesday. (David Harrison, M&G)
Nine provincial commissioners who last week put their
jobs on the line when they came out publicly in support of national police commissioner Riah Phiyega have
been advised to leave politics to the politicians and stick to their day jobs.
The provincial commissioners appeared before the police committee
in Parliament on Wednesday and were forced
to apologise to the president, the country and the committee, and retract
the statement they issued last week expressing concern about the negative attitude
The Farlam commission of inquiry, set up to investigate the Marikana massacre in 2012, recommended in its report released last month that
the national commissioner face an inquiry into her fitness to hold
office. Phiyega was given until July 31 to submit her reasons in writing
to the president as to why she should not face an inquiry.
The presidency said it had received her response just before 11pm on July 31.
It said President Jacob Zuma would study the response to determine if any intervention was warranted and the nature of such intervention, it said.
Facing a roomful of hostile members of
Parliament, the commissioners said the need to bring stability to the South African Police Service (SAPS) had driven their statement.
Made to apologiseThe commissioners, excluding Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye
Ngobeni from KwaZulu-Natal, who was not present, were each made to apologise and
promise that it would not reoccur.
commissioners reluctantly expressed regret over the storm their
collective statement had caused and some grudgingly retracted the statement.
The commissioners issued a collective statement last week
expressing serious concern over what they termed an unfair and negative attitude
They said they had “noticed a tendency to reduce everything, especially negative issues relating
to policing, to the person of the national commissioner, as if the SAPS is a one-person
“It is therefore appropriate that the board publicly
declares its full support for General Phiyega, and fully endorses her efforts
in turning around the SAPS.
United in condemnationMPs from all parties were united in their condemnation of the statement, which they said undermined the process that is already under way to determine
Phiyega’s fitness for office.
Deputy national commissioner of corporate services
Lieutenant General Nobubele Mbekela said the statement, which was discussed and
agreed on at a board of commissioners meeting Phiyega chaired in July, was
to correct the misinformation on dysfunctionality
in the police service.
“The intention of the statement was to say to the members
that SAPS remains stable. SAPS remains committed,” she said.
While Phiyega chaired the meeting, she did not
participate in the discussions about the statement and had said she felt conflicted
by the discussion, according to the commissioners.
‘Do you really think we are idiots’MPs grilled police spokesperson General Solomon
Makgale as to who approved the decision to release the statement.
Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald demanded the name
of the person.
“Somebody, a human being, instructed you. Please can we
get the name of that human being? It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Makgale said only that there “was a discussion in the BOC
meeting, and the members of the BOC took a decision that a statement must be
But MPs were unimpressed and accused the
commissioners of lying to the committee.
Groenewald said the provincial leaders
were insulting the members. “Do you really think we are idiots?” he asked.
‘Stop playing games’ANC MP Livhuhani Mabija said: “We
are even getting confused because you are dribbling us. We are not here to be
dribbled. Can you stop playing games please.”
The MPs demanded to see a copy of the minutes of the
meeting, which the commissioners could not produce, as well as a transcript of
Mabija said it sounded as though the provincial heads were
reciting poetry as they were all saying the same thing.
Police deputy minister Maggie Sotyu apologised to the
committee on behalf of the ministry and the leadership of the police.
“All these things happened under our stewardship. I agree
with you when you say we must apologise to the president and the nation.
Because we started by pre-empting the president as we don’t know what route he
is going to take [in the investigation].”
Next week, the committee will call Ngobeni to the
committee to answer for her part in the fracas.
Read more from Thulani Gqirana
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