Phiyega told to 'reflect' on her 'black and proud' SMS

MPs expressed shock and dismay at what they called the whispery and threatening tone of the SMS National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega sent MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard.

MPs expressed shock and dismay at what they called the whispery and threatening tone of the SMS National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega sent MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard.

Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard on Tuesday showed the police committee in Parliament an SMS sent to her by National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega on Thursday last week, which left the MPs of all parties fuming.

In the SMS, the police commissioner said: “I am black, proud, capable. Get it clear, you can take nothing from me and eat your heart out. I am not made by you and cannot be undone by you.”

MPs expressed shock and dismay on Tuesday at what they called the whispery and threatening tone of the SMS, with chairperson Francois Beukman promising to look into launching an investigation into the matter.

But on Wednesday the committee did an about turn after numerous caucuses outside the venue and instead essentially closed the matter. Beukman said they were not going to pursue the matter as the police commissioner had admitted to sending the SMS.

“We just need serious reflection by the accounting officer on that issue,” he said.
Asked if that was the end of the matter, Beukman again reiterated the need for the police commissioner to sit and reflect on her actions.

Approached for comment after the meeting, Phiyega said she would only comment at an appropriate time on the outcome of the committee meeting.

‘Brushed aside’
Kohler-Barnard said she was shocked at the decision to drop the matter as she was expecting a more severe stance from the committee. She said they had decided as a committee to deal with Phiyega harshly, but that had not transpired.

“It was simply brushed aside. So I don’t know who was leaned on here or why there was a change in the plan. But I must admit I was quite stunned that it was dealt with in a single sentence: ‘Oh, go home and reflect on what you did.’ What is that? 

“I found it quite extraordinary that it was brushed aside. It could happen to any member now. Yesterday all members were angry and now it’s just brushed aside.”

Kohler-Barnard said she did not feel threatened by Phiyega or her spin doctor.

“There is nothing either of them can do to me. But she really overstepped the bounds completely by sending a message like that.”

National police spokesperson Solly Makgale said on Tuesday that the message was not meant for public distribution.

Avoided eye contact
At the committee meeting, Phiyega sat almost directly across from Kohler-Barnard and the two mostly avoided eye contact throughout the five-hour meeting.

On the matter of a statement sent by the board of commissioners last month in support of Phiyega, Beukman said they wanted the agenda and minutes of the meeting where a decision to send the statement was made.

“The electronic copy of the minutes, attendance register and electronic recording of that meeting. The performance agreements of all the related officers mentioned in those statements. Copies of all the statements issued by those provincial commissioners. Then we want the national commissioner to appear before the committee next week.”

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