Former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega File picture: Itumeleng English/ANA

Johannesburg - Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has defended the payment of legal fees amounting to almost R600 000 for former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega to challenge the Farlam Commission.

Responding to parliamentary questions from the DA’s Zakhele Mbhele, Mbalula said the amount was paid because of the position she held at the time she instituted the proceedings.

He said the office of the state attorney was to pay a total of R599 277 in legal fees.

“Legal fees were paid since the findings made by the Farlam Commission were as a result of the position that former general Phiyega held.

“Due to her position as national commissioner of the SAPS, it was decided to provide legal representation at state cost for her review proceedings,” he said.

Mbhele said the expenditure on legal fees showed that public funds were being wasted.

He said Phiyega’s legal challenge had not been successful and that she had lost her job.

Mbhele also said the money could have been used to address understaffing and the shortage of equipment in the SAPS.

Phiyega was embroiled in legal action against the findings of the commission when her five-year term ended in June.

The commission had made damning findings against her during its investigation into the Marikana massacre of 2012, which claimed 34 lives.

Retired judge Ian Farlam had recommended that an inquiry into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office be instituted.

President Jacob Zuma subsequently suspended her on full pay in October 2015 when the Claassen Inquiry into her fitness to hold office was instituted.

Phiyega had lodged another review application in the high court to have the findings set aside.

The costs for this review have yet to be determined.

Mbhele said yesterday that he would follow up with Mbalula on the costs incurred by Phiyega in the Claassen Inquiry.

When she challenged the Farlam Commission and Claassen board of inquiry, Phiyega was on full pay.

She pocketed R3.2million between October 2015 and April 2017 for staying at home.

Of the R3.2m, R562 541 was a non-pensionable “cash allowance”, R299 244 for “head of department” allowance and R335 130 was a pension contribution, among others.

At the time, Mbhele viewed as unacceptable the payments made to Phiyega and head of crime intelligence Richard Mdluli, who pocketed R8.3m after his 2011 suspension.

He had called for replacements for Phiyega’s and Mdluli’s positions.

“It is absolutely imperative that we have fit and proper leadership in the police so that these millions that could have been spent on our severely under-resourced police are not wasted on failed SAPS leadership,” Mbhele said about the money paid to the then suspended top cops.

It is understood that the SAPS is in a process to hire a new national police commissioner.

Lesetja Mothiba is the acting commissioner, while a disciplinary process was to have been instituted against Mdluli.

Politics Bureau