NO TEARS FOR RIAH

CityPress - - Front Page - Mphego is the for­mer head of po­lice in­tel­li­gence and is cur­rently the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of African Es­ti­mate Mu­langi Mphego voices@ city­press. co. za

Riah Phiyega has no one to blame for her cur­rent woes but her­self. Her fault lines can be traced back to the first time she re­ceived that mes­sage from Mahlamba Nd­lopfu in 2012, when she ac­cepted the of­fer to be na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner.

She must have known that her train­ing, pro­fes­sional so­cial work ex­pe­ri­ence, and failed short stints at Absa and Transnet could not pos­si­bly have pre­pared her for the enor­mous task of steer­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion as com­plex as the SA Po­lice Ser­vice. Any vir­tu­ous per­son would have po­litely de­clined the of­fer by the pres­i­dent, say­ing: “Thanks, but no thanks, Mr Pres­i­dent, I’m not nearly equipped for this task.”

But not our Phiyega. She sat there and agreed to per­pet­u­ate the farce, ar­ro­gantly declar­ing to the na­tion and the world that she “didn’t need to be a drunk­ard to run a bot­tle store”. This non­sen­si­cal anal­ogy, broad­cast in the pres­ence of her grin­ning and chuck­ling (now for­mer) po­lice min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa, was to be­come the reign­ing mantra of our em­bat­tled na­tional com­mis­sioner.

True to her mantra, the first thing she did on land­ing at po­lice HQ was dis­man­tle com­mand and con­trol by com­pletely sidelin­ing – per­haps un­law­fully so – four deputy na­tional com­mis­sion­ers who, com­bined, had al­most 100 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, and ap­pointed ju­nior divi­sional com­mis­sion­ers to act in her ab­sence.

In fact, she went ahead and chased th­ese of­fi­cers out and re­placed them with the in­ept Nobubele Mbekela and Solomon Mak­gale, while ne­glect­ing the abun­dant wealth of ex­per­tise and knowl­edge that was cry­ing out to be used. This ex­tra­or­di­nary be­hav­iour could only have been borne out of petty ig­no­rance that fu­elled her dis­com­fort at be­ing sur­rounded by ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers.

This is a na­tional com­mis­sioner who flaunts the most ba­sic of ba­sics. This is a leader who hounded out act­ing crime in­tel­li­gence head Chris Ngcobo, os­ten­si­bly be­cause he didn’t have a ma­tric cer­tifi­cate, but we knew that he was per­se­cuted be­cause of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion he was pur­su­ing against sus­pended Western Cape Pro­vin­cial Com­mis­sioner Arno Lamoer.

We now know that Phiyega even un­law­fully tipped off Lamoer about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This is a na­tional com­mis­sioner dur­ing whose reign, a bit­ter Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Sean Tsha­bal­ala died un­der cir­cum­stances that are still a mys­tery. The truth of the mat­ter is that, for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son, Phiyega har­boured open dis­dain for the role and con­tri­bu­tion of mem­bers of the po­lice who had been in­te­grated from our non-statu­tory forces. Not even for­mer na­tional com­mis­sioner Ge­orge Fi­vaz had de­railed the trans­for­ma­tion pro­ject of the SA Po­lice Ser­vice to the ex­tent that she has.

This is a na­tional com­mis­sioner who, un­like all her pre­de­ces­sors, should have brought such traits that are tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with fem­i­nin­ity – gen­tle­ness, em­pa­thy and sen­si­tiv­ity. Yet she com­manded the po­lice re­sources to do what they did in Marikana – a sit­u­a­tion that shocked and trau­ma­tised not only the next of kin of the de­ceased mine work­ers, but the en­tire na­tion.

The so­cial worker in her failed to sym­pa­thise with the fam­i­lies of the de­ceased and with the en­tire trau­ma­tised na­tion, strangely and naively opt­ing to re­ward and en­cour­age wrong be­hav­iour by com­mend­ing the po­lice and telling them that what they did – killing mine work­ers – rep­re­sented the best of polic­ing. To­day, the na­tion must be thank­ful that just be­fore she got sus­pended, she failed in her at­tempts to ban­ish the cur­rent act­ing na­tional com­mis­sioner to Lim­popo when she em­barked on her ill-in­formed re­struc­tur­ing process. This is the same Phiyega who is quick to point fin­gers and claim that her co­horts are be­ing per­se­cuted.

To­day, Phiyega wants the na­tion to be­lieve that she has a “re­veal­ing” story to tell the board of in­quiry that will look into her fit­ness to hold of­fice. It will be in­ter­est­ing to know if she plans to re­veal to the in­quiry that her in­fa­mous D-day de­ci­sion led to the deaths of the mine work­ers in Marikana.

If in­side talk is any­thing to go by, she is in for the shock of her life when those who were close enough to hear and to record her tom­foo­leries sub­mit their tes­ti­monies, not only to the board of in­quiry but in the many crim­i­nal mat­ters that will fol­low.

Un­for­tu­nately, Phiyega has missed the win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to gracefully bow out. Maybe she will now ac­knowl­edge that you need a well-qual­i­fied busi­ness man­ager to run a bot­tle store. Maybe she will now ac­knowl­edge that she was never cut out for this thank­less job.

Phiyega must be our worst na­tional com­mis­sioner post-1994. She was also her own worst en­emy.

Riah Phiyega

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