Parliament - National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega found herself in hot water with MPs again on Tuesday - this time over a defiant SMS she reportedly sent to one of them.
The text message to Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard read: “I am black, proud, capable and get it clear you can take nothing from me eat your heart out. I am not made by you and can not be undone by you - Riah Phiyega.”
When the African News Agency called the number the message was sent from, a man answered the phone confirming it was Phiyega’s phone and that she was in a meeting. The man would not give his name.
Kohler Barnard read the message out to Parliament’s portfolio committee on police on Tuesday, adding: “I find it absolutely appalling that a police commissioner would choose to send me a personal message when I’m doing my job and she is failing to do her job. I would ask that that in fact becomes part of your investigation because I sense a threatening tone there.”
News of the SMS prompted a barrage of angry responses from MPs.
“If this message is really from her, where does she get the audacity to do that, and really this shocked me down to the marrow,” said ANC MP Livhuhani Mabija said.
Other MPs expressed similar sentiments and demanded an immediate investigation into whether the message did indeed come from Phiyega, with the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Phillip Mhlongo going a step further.
“She is really calling for mutiny from other officers and as such General Phiyega, if this message comes from her, must be removed… and stripped of her role of command,” he said.
A reluctant Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lesetja Mothiba was ordered to find out whether the country’s embattled top cop was responsible for sending the message.
“I haven’t seen the message myself. This is my plea to you that a formal leter is written to her,” Mothiba pleaded.
But committee chairman Francois Beukman laid down the law, saying: “In terms of rule 138, you must do it. I’m instructing you.”
In terms of National Assembly rule 138, anyone appearing before the committee is compelled by law to “fully and satisfactorily” answer any questions put to them by the committee.
Last week, MPs raked provincial police commissioners over the coals for sending out a media statement in support of Phiyega shortly after she was made to make submissions to President Jacob Zuma on why she should keep her job in light of the recommendations of the Farlam commission of inquiry.
The commission laid most of the blame for the killing of 34 mineworkers on August 16 at Phiyega’s feet, recommending she face an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Despite denials from the commissioners during last week’s meeting, MPs were pondering whether to probe whether they in fact they lied about being ordered to sign off on the statement of support of Phiyega to protect their jobs.