Phiyega bounces back
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Johannesburg - Former national police boss Riah Phiyega is set to make a spectacular comeback as head of an anti-crime foundation linked to one of Cosatu’s biggest affiliates, police union Popcru.
Phiyega, who is also a trustee in the SAPS medical aid scheme Polmed, will start her new role as the chief executive of the Safer South Africa Foundation later this month, its chairperson, Dr Tshenuwani Farisani, confirmed to Independent Media on Wednesday.
Farisani said Phiyega would replace Tseliso Thipanyane, who left the foundation earlier this year.
Phiyega was suspended by President Jacob Zuma in October 2015 after the findings of the commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Ian Farlam into the Marikana massacre were made public.
Her contract was not renewed in June after it ended, but Farisani appeared unfazed by Phiyega’s past.
“We are aware of the challenges but when we scrutinised them, we found nothing that could prevent her from contributing to Safer South Africa Foundation,” he said.
According to Farisani, the foundation worked with a wide range of stakeholders including the judiciary, police, correctional services, youth and communities to make the country a safe place for all citizens to live in, work and play. He said Phiyega was appointed because of her skills, experience and commitment.
Farisani said that as a pastor himself, he did not judge other people but gave them another chance.
“I love Riah Phiyega. She is a good woman. I think she will do a great job (at the foundation),” he said.
“If she makes a mistake, she is just like you and me.”
Farisani said he was a victim of torture under apartheid but his tormentors and the murders of the hated regime had been forgiven. “We have forgiven those who have committed the worst crimes,” he said.
The Safer South Africa Foundation was established in 2011 through a generous sponsorship by Popcru of a round-table gathering of academics, union officials, NGOs, business people, public servants and other senior government representatives.
Since its inception, it has been supported by the union’s investment arm, the Popcru Group of Companies (PGC), whose interests are mainly in the financial services sector.
The foundation has been assisted by PGC to mobilise under-resourced communities and empower them to fight crime.
Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo confirmed Phiyega’s appointment as the foundation’s new boss.
Mamabolo denied Phiyega was being handed a lifeline. He said no court has found her guilty of anything and that she still had a lot to offer.
“We’ve always supported her and we’re happy with the decision,” Mamabolo said.
In September, trade union Solidarity complained about Phiyega’s appointment as a continuation representative of the police’s medical aid scheme, Polmed.
Phiyega dismissed Solidarity, saying it lacked the necessary standing to demand her disqualification from being a Polmed member and trustee.
She said Solidarity had no explanation other than being “vitiated by ulterior, egregious and flagrant motives such as hatred for me or even racism”.
Last year, Polmed trustees earned fees between R11 650 and R18 650 for sub-committee and board of trustees meetings.
Last month, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula denied that Phiyega was paid a retirement package.
“She was paid the normal service termination benefits,” he said.
Some trustees attended up to 17 trustee and sub-committee meetings a year.
Phiyega has asked the high court in Pretoria to review and set aside Farlam’s findings that she misled the commission and concealed information.
A subsequent board of inquiry into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office, headed by retired Judge Neels Claassen, recommended that she be dismissed for her role in the Marikana massacre, which led to dozens of striking Lonmin mineworkers being shot dead by police officers. The former police boss also accuses Claassen of making irrational findings and wants them reviewed and set aside by the high court.
Phiyega did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.