Johannesburg - National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has four police medals despite becoming a police officer only in 2012, when her appointment was officially announced.
The decorations were revealed in Parliament when DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard asked about the medals Phiyega wore at the National Police Remembrance Day.
The medals that have been awarded to the commissioner are the SAPS gold medal for outstanding service, the SAPS 10-year commemoration medal, the amalgamation medal and the Fifa World Cup 2010 support medal.
The Star understands that the outstanding service medal is awarded to an officer who has distinguished themselves through exceptional leadership, resourcefulness and a sense of duty.
The SAPS 10-year commemoration award was for serving in the police between 1995 and 2005, the first 10 years of democracy, and the amalgamation award was given when the 11 police agencies were amalgamated into one service in 1994. The World Cup 2010 support award was for officers who worked during the tournament.
Kohler Barnard said she was inundated with calls from SAPS members asking what Phiyega had earned her medals for.
“What right has she to wear medals for the Fifa World Cup or for 10-year commemorations?” Kohler Barnard asked.
“It is so utterly disrespectful to those SAPS members who have actually earned the right to wear these medals.”
Police Ministry spokesman Musa Zondi said the commissioner’s outstanding service award was given for her sterling work in the time she had been with the police and that the 2010 World Cup medal was given for being part of the World Cup local committee.
He said the 10-year commemoration was given because of her rank as a general who was awarding these medals to others.
The amalgamation award was given for her continued work in amalgamating different police units, her work in transforming the police service and for being the first female police commissioner.
Military expert Helmoed-Römer Heitman said medals are there so that on first sight you can see what a fellow officer has done in their years of service.
Medals are given for long service, merit awards for outstanding service for taking part in a specific campaign and for bravery.
“I don’t think anyone would object to the outstanding service medal and she probably did good work in 2010,” Heitman said.
“I’m happy to accept that she deserves the medals, but I know a lot of cops who will be very unhappy.”
Oscar Skommere, general secretary of the South African Police Union, was one of them.
He said getting medals in the police was like taking part in a race. If you race and win, you get a medal. If you didn’t take part, you don’t get the award.
“If you get a gold award for outstanding service, you need to have achieved it. All Phiyega has done is make mistake after mistake. Look at Marikana and the rising crime stats,” Skommere said.
He added that police officers who were actually working during 1994, 1995 and 2010 still hadn’t got their medals even though they met the requirements.
“You don’t just get an award because you are a general.
“Those times have gone by. If you weren’t there, why get those medals?”