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Johannesburg - The captain is leaving the ship - but the SAPS refuses to confirm or deny whether a metaphor-laden speech made by Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petros was a resignation announcement.
Petros took to the podium on Saturday night at the provincial Prestige Awards, which honour excellence in policing.
“After 10 years of being the captain of this ship, the captain has parked the ship and made sure that today we are doing the refreshment and making sure that the ship continues its journey,” he reportedly told an audience that included national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega and Gauteng Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko.
“But we agreed that the captain is not going to be on the ship moving forward.”
If that means retirement, redeployment or demotion, nobody is saying.
National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said on Sunday that Petros had not submitted a letter of resignation.
He insisted there was nothing new to add to statements made by the SAPS earlier this month when talk of Petros’s resignation first surfaced.
According to media reports, Petros told a gathering of senior staff on July 31 that he would be retiring.
But the SAPS denied this in a press release, saying Petros had simply said his contract was due to end on August 15.
Then, in a second press release and with just 24 hours to go before the contract deadline, they said Phiyega and Petros had “concluded discussions about Mr Petros’s employment contract and other related issues”.
“Until such time the announcement is made, General Petros will remain in his position as provincial commissioner,” the statement added.
“In the interim, the South African Police Service is not going to respond to speculations and predictions about what announcement the national commissioner is likely to make.”
Now nearly two weeks later, the SAPS said it had nothing new to add. “We’ve issued two statements about the matter - nothing has changed,” said Makgale.
But he said The Star could draw its own conclusions about Petros’s speech.
Meanwhile, Petros reportedly told broadcaster eNCA that he would speak on the matter this week, but would otherwise not comment.
Gauteng community safety spokesman Thapelo Moiloa said the department had not received any formal communication from Phiyega on the situation.
He thanked Petros “for his contribution in making Gauteng a safer place, as evidenced by the crime statistics in the time he was appointed”.
Before taking the helm in Gauteng in September 2010, Petros served as provincial commissioner in the Western Cape for seven years.
During his first year in his new role, the rate of serious crime in Gauteng dropped by 11.6 percent, followed by an 8.1 percent drop the year after. Crime statistics for 2012/2013 will be released next month.
Crime Line head Yusuf Abramjee said the day Petros leaves his post would be “a very sad day for the people of Gauteng and South Africa”.
“He has served this province with dedication and commitment,” said Abramjee.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said Petros was a “career police officer who has brought great professionalism to the areas he’s worked in”.
But South African Police Union general secretary Oscar Skommere’s scathing view was: “The man did not respect labour-related policies… His departure is long overdue.”