533 The new National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega smiles flanked by Maggie Sotyu, Nathi Mkhwanazi and Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi during her first press conference after occupying the hot seat at the police academy in Pretoria. 140612. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu



NEWLY appointed top cop General Riah Phiyega’s main focus would be to root out corruption, improve the image of the SAPS and make life difficult for criminals.

Phiyega, a businesswoman who has sound management and administration skills, said she would be engaging in a programme that would vigorously deal with rape and intensify the fight against crime.

She said crimes against women and children were the priority of the SAPS and the government, and urged the community to rally behind the police in eradicating these.

Addressing the media at the SAPS Training Academy in Pretoria yesterday, Phiyega – a tall and feisty woman – refused to respond to criticism about her lack of experience in the police.

She said: “I’m not a cop. You don’t need to be a drunkard to own a bottlestore.”

A confident and articulate Phiyega, who has had an illustrious career in the private sector, said she was going to learn and make it happen.

“Judge me in 12 months’ time on whether I have a poor learning capacity (or not).”

In assuring South Africans that she was ready for the challenge that comes with the job, she said: “I’m ready to serve. I’m up to it.”

Speaking in Sepedi, Phiyega said: “Mmangwana o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng (mother holds the knife on the sharper side).”

The 54-year-old Phiyega sent a stern warning to criminals.

She said: “No criminals must feel comfortable in our country.”

In the first three months, her main focus would be the fight against crime and instituting effective financial controls and the general management of resources, including improving the working conditions of the police, she said.

“Ultimately, improve the overall image of the police through effective engagement,” she said.

Combating corruption is also on her top list, as the SAPS has been blighted by corruption that has led to the suspension of several senior officials.

Phiyega said there was a sense of urgency to fight corruption.

Although she did not go into details in explaining how she was going to root it out, Phiyega said: “Corruption is a national priority. I’m looking at what is on the table in terms of dealing with the matter.”

She was aware the SAPS was facing challenges, but said nothing was insurmountable.

Phiyega added: “It is my dream at the end of my tenure as a police commissioner (to have improved) the image of the SAPS.”

She was appointed on Tuesday after President Jacob Zuma fired Bheki Cele.

Phiyega went into her office in Pretoria for the first time yesterday. On Wednesday, she had meetings with police top brass at her Midrand home.

Her uniform will be ready next week, and already she has bodyguards.