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Pretoria - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega says despite calls for her resignation, she will not walk away from her post but will instead “pick up the pace… marching briskly towards the goal we have set for the police”.
That goal, she says, is to transform and overhaul the police service.
There have been calls for Phiyega to resign - only 15 months into her tenure - after she last month appointed Major-General Bethuel Mondli Zuma as Gauteng provincial police commissioner to replace Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros.
The appointment was withdrawn a few hours later when it emerged Zuma was facing charges of drunk driving and defeating the ends of justice. He was arrested in Pietermaritzburg in 2008 for alleged drunk driving and will appear in court again this month.
The divisional commissioner for visible policing, Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba, would act as provincial commissioner of Gauteng until further notice.
Phiyega said the appointment had been provisional.
On Monday, Phiyega said: “In line with the current SAPS prescripts, it was not deemed necessary to conduct a detailed search, particularly noting that the people being promoted or transferred are senior executives, who are loyal and hardworking career police officers, well respected and had established relationships of trust with the SAPS and with myself as a national commissioner.
“In the case of Major-General Zuma, at the very least, requisite background checks aside, he should have been frank with me. That is why I was so disappointed.”
Phiyega said she had now instructed that the process of upgrading and enhancing a profiling system, known as the Global Access Control System (Gacs), be accelerated. The system enables police to establish the status of pending criminal investigations and prosecutions. “In the future, all promotions and transfers, particularly at senior executive level, will include a Gacs check,” Phiyega said.
The DA spokeswoman on police, Dianne Kohler Barnard, has been leading the call for Phiyega’s dismissal. She said: “The SAPS has suffered from disastrous national police commissioners for years now, and Phiyega is a cadre too far. We need a career police officer at the helm and it is President Zuma’s responsibility to ensure that this happens.”
Phiyega said: “I do believe that the citizens of this country understand that I inherited a huge organisation with massive problems. Everyone wants swift action from their national commissioner, particularly as it relates to issues of misconduct by police officers. I have done nothing less and will not compromise on issues of integrity.”
South African Institute for Race Relations researcher Kerwin Lebone said Zuma’s appointment was too important for Phiyega to not have had a hands-on role. “Appointments in the security cluster are very important. It is amazing that security checks were not done on someone appointed at that level. This has implications on the whole justice system. There should be a vetting system at that level to avoid history repeating itself.”
The South African Police Union has called the appointment and withdrawal a “shame”. The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union’s spokeswoman, Theto Mahlakoana, said: “Popcru believes the national commissioner can still be trusted to turn the SAPS around. Running the SAPS is a complex and demanding job. We’ll continue to lend a helping hand to the office of the national commissioner. We however also encourage her to prioritise the needs of her staff to ensure that South Africans don’t experience any service disruptions.
“Popcru finds it unfortunate that the commissioner appointed Major-General Mondli Zuma without conducting necessary vetting procedures. We hope she will learn from this error.”