Heated reactions have followed the appointment of our first female police commissioner, Magwashi Victoria Phiyega.
These range from optimism that her experience will help staunch corruption within and beyond the force, to outright disdain over her being a civilian – something the South African Policing Union (Sapu) says is an “insult to the country's police”. Read her full list of credentials here.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has welcomed the move, saying: "Her international expertise, qualifications coupled with local understanding of the management dynamics, are good ingredients to enable her to help SAPS achieve and deliver on its mandate, which is to ensure that South Africans are and feel safe."
The ANC has also praised the appointment, adding that her public sector experience and knowledge of public policy would benefit her fight against crime and corruption – internally and among the general public.
The DA has cautiously welcomed Phiyega's appointment: "Her qualifications and wealth of experience in management make a welcome addition to the top brass of the SAPS. The DA remains concerned, however, that she is not a career police officer and has no experience in fighting crime," said Dianne Kohler Barnard, shadow minister of police.
President Jacob Zuma announced Phiyega's appointment on Tuesday 12 June after releasing Bheki Cele as national police commissioner.
Less complimentary remarks have today, Wednesday 13 June, been made by police union Sapu, which views the appointment of a civilian as police commissioner as an insult to the country's police force.
"We were of the opinion that the president would [have] learnt that non-police officers have not made any good national police commissioners," Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere said in a statement.
"The continued imposition of others in the top SAPS office is not only an insult to tens of deserving officers, but it also demoralises them."
Skommere said the SAPS was a "military environment" and it deserved to be kept that way.
However, Sapu would respect Phiyega's appointment and was willing to work together with her.
"We also want to state it categorically … that as professionals we are willing to work with whomever is in that office, including the new national police commissioner," he said.
"We call upon all SAPS officers as disciplined men and women in blue to give the new national commissioner the necessary support in her new office."
The trouble with the others
The Daily Maverick commented in a piece published on 13 June that Zuma’s decision to appoint Phiyega was borne out of sensitivity over the leanings of past top cops.
“Zuma probably reasoned that there would have been a huge public uproar and continuing rebellion from police senior management had he appointed another ANC loyalist into the post. He is wholly insecure about the loyalties of the SAPS generals following the fracas over the former crime intelligence head, Richard Mdluli, and therefore would be wary about who he can trust with the position,” it reported.
“Zuma is obviously banking on Phiyega bringing more professionalism and better administration to the management of the police, and to reduce levels of infighting and corruption.”
Phiyega’s total lack of experience in security and crime prevention is cause for concern:
“As a businesswoman, she would hardly instil fear in the minds of violent criminals in the way Cele did with his ‘shoot to kill’ approach. Her only hope in this regard would be to create a police service that functions optimally and competently and hope that the close to 200 000 police personnel respond positively,” the publication added.
Sources: BuaNews, Sapa, Daily Maverick