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African News Agency
29 Aug 2015 13:58
SA Police service national spokesperson Solomon Makgale (centre). (David Harrison, M&G)
It was national police spokesperson Solly Makgale’s turn to face the music in Parliament on Friday.
The South African police’s chief spin doctor found himself in the firing line as he explained to MPs how a media statement
“misrepresenting” Parliament’s portfolio committee on police was issued.
MPs indicated they would complain to the police minister after they
MPs were not happy with his responses to their concerns about the
contents of a media statement issued after MPs had scolded national and
provincial police management over their public backing of national
police commissioner Riah Phiyega.
Makgale issued a statement on August 1, on behalf of the police’s
board of commissioners (BOC) apparently expressing support for Phiyega,
after President Jacob Zuma had asked her to explain why she should not
face a board of inquiry into her fitness to hold office as a result of
the findings of the Marikana commission of inquiry.
After MPs raked members of the BOC—which include Phiyega’s deputies
and the nine provincial police commissioners—over the coals on August
12, they were told to retract the statement.
However, instead of a retraction, Makgale issued another statement on
behalf of the BOC, reading: “Nonetheless, the Committee was of the view
that the statement had unintended consequences in that it created an
impression that the Board was pre-empting the process that the President
has initiated following the release of the Marikana Commission’s
Makgale denied he wrote the statement, insisting the provincial
commissioners had drafted the statement, without any coercion from
Phiyega, and that he had merely issued it.
It later emerged that Free State police commissioner Thabethe Mpembe had not signed the statement.
“In this regard, all the provincial commissioners indicated to me in
writing that they agree with the statement, with the exception of the
provincial commissioner of the Free State,” Makgale said on Friday.
“When I had a discussion with him on the phone, he indicated to me he
discussed the statement with one other provincial commissioner and that
he was comfortable with it. An hour later, he then sent me an SMS to
indicate his discomfort.”
Makgale told MPs the meeting that decided on the statement being
issued was an informal one, and while Phiyega was present, he denied she
influenced commissioners to issue the statement.
’‘Meeting held in a shebeen’
ANC MP Risimati Mavunda was not happy hearing this, saying: “I just
imagined the type of meeting held in a shebeen.
There is no order, and
there is no chairperson, and everybody is talking to everybody.”
Mavunda’s colleague Leonard Ramatlakane was equally incensed,
suggesting someone was being “economical with the truth”, to which
Makgale responded: “I must say I’m disturbed to be accused of lying.”
While admitting part of his job required him to offer communication
advice to Phiyega, his direct superior, Makgale denied he was pressured.
“I was under no pressure to issue the statement.
“Should I be believed or not? I’ve been in the job of communications
for over 15 years now. I’m a principled person and I take my work
extremely seriously. I do not believe there is a reason … that I should
not be believed. I have told the truth.”
Committee chairperson Francois Beukman said the committee was concerned
that its recommendations to police management were not being taken
seriously, and has suggested a meeting with the police ministry to
“Today’s proceedings warrant us as a committee to enter into
discussions with the executive authority to indicate there is serious
problems in our analysis with corporate governance within SAPS,” said
“We at the portfolio committee are not going to accept a situation where there is not seriousness with our recommendations.”
The statements issued by Makgale would form the basis of a Parliamentary inquiry initiated by the committee.
Earlier on Friday, the committee adopted the terms of reference of
the inquiry, to be conducted in terms of National Assembly rule 201, to
determine whether Makgale and other senior police officers lied to MPs.
The terms of reference include that the inquiry:
The inquiry would take place in October, and the provincial
commissioners and Phiyega’s national deputies would be called to
The Farlam commission recommended Phiyega face a board of
inquiry into her fitness to hold office, after it criticised her
decisions in the lead up to the Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012,
when 34 miners were shot dead by police.
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