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NEWLY appointed top cop General Riah Phiyega’s main focus would be to route out corruption and improve the image of the SAPS, as well as make life difficult for criminals and vigorously deal with rape.
Phiyega, a businesswoman who has sound management and administration skills, said yesterday she would be engaging in a programme that would intensify the fight against crime, especially crimes against women and children, which were the priority of the SAPS and the government. She urged the community to rally behind them in eradicating these types of crime.
Addressing the media at the SAPS Tshwane Training Academy, Phiyega – a tall and feisty woman – refused to respond to criticism about her lack of experience in the police, saying: “I’m not a cop. You don’t need to be a drunkard to own a bottle store.” Phiyega said she was going to learn. “Judge me in 12 months’ time on whether I have a poor learning capacity.”
Assuring South Africans that she was ready for the challenge that comes with the job she said: “I’m ready to serve.”
Speaking in Sepedi, her mother tongue, she said: “Mmangwana o tshara thipa ka bogaleng (a mother holds the knife on the sharper side).”
The 54-year-old sent a stern warning to criminals. “We will definitely make life difficult for you out there.”
In the first three months her main focus would be the fight against crime, and instituting effective financial controls and general management of resources, including improving working conditions of the police. “Ultimately, (I aim to) improve the overall image of the police through effective public engagement,” she said.
Combating corruption is also a priority. The SAPS has been marred by corruption in the past few months, which has led to the suspension of several senior police officials. Although she did not go into details in explaining how she was going to route out corruption, Phiyega said corruption was “a national priority”.
Acknowledging that the SAPS was facing challenges, Phiyega said nothing was “insurmountable”.
Phiyega was appointed on Tuesday when President Jacob Zuma fired Bheki Cele after the board that investigated his fitness to hold office found that he should be released from his duties. This followed damning findings against Cele, which said he had been involved in improper and unlawful conduct that amounted to maladministration for his involvement in the conclusion of lease deals totalling R1,6 billion for police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban.
Phiyega went into her office in Pretoria for the first time yesterday, where the official handover from Acting National Police commissioner Major-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi was going to take place. On Wednesday Phiyega had meetings with police top brass at her Midrand home.
Phiyega, who holds several degrees and comes from a family of academic achievers, said: “I am looking forward to wearing the blue uniform.”