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Newly appointed SAPS head Riah Phiyega was only a “tiny” Grade 8 pupil when she travelled alone by train from Polokwane to Joburg in the 1970s.
Her mother, Rebecca Moloisi, vividly remembers how nervous the family was about Phiyega travelling alone.
“We were so worried that our little girl, carrying a suitcase, had to go to Park Station alone,” said Moloisi in an interview with The Star Africa on Wednesday at her home in Seshego, west of Polokwane.
In her first year at Leolo High School, Phiyega was chosen to represent the student Christian movement in Durban.
This week, President Jacob Zuma appointed Phiyega as the national police commissioner, the first woman to occupy the position.
Phiyega’s mother heard about the appointment on the radio.
“I had a mixture of feelings, a little bit of shock and excitement,” her mother said.
Phiyega’s elder sister, who asked not to be named, said her sibling was “brave and a perfectionist”.
“She is not the type of a person who would shy away from doing any task,” she said.
Asked when last she had spoken to her daughter, a proud Moloisi said: “I spoke to her this morning … I said: ‘I fully support you’.”
Phiyega learnt the importance of education from an early age.
Her late father GJ Moloisi, was a well-known principal and school inspector in the area.
Phiyega completed a BA in Social Work from the University of the North in 1981, got her Honours’ degree and postgraduate diplomas.
Until recently, she was chairwoman of the presidential state-owned entity review committee and has been a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
She also served on the SA 2010 World Cup bid committee.