Graeme Hosken, Chandré Prince and Dominic Mahlangu
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Mangwashi "Riah” Phiyega as the first woman police commissioner is a "big flop”, according to critics of the move, including ANC members.
Yesterday, security experts, opposition parties and senior ANC officials slammed Zuma’s latest choice, saying the human resources practitioner came with "nothing but certificates”.
Phiyega, who has no policing experience, will have a baptism of fire as she takes up the top police job.
One of the thorny issues she will have to deal with is that of controversial police spy boss Lieutenant- General Richard Mdluli.
Addressing the media in Pretoria yesterday, Zuma said Phiyega would take up her position with immediate effect.
This after he had decided to fire her predecessor, General Bheki Cele.
ANC members criticised the decision to appoint Phiyega, saying Zuma was not resolving the chaos in the police service but was more intent on securing his political survival ahead of the Mangaung elective conference in December.
"At a time when we are faced with such challenges in the police service, Zuma brings a former social worker to head the most important post in the land. This is a big flop,” a senior Gauteng ANC member said.
"How is the new commissioner going to deal with intelligence reports that involve politicians?
"With her lack of experience in security matters, we are afraid that she will be a useful tool for those in power.”
But the ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House, later expressed its support for Phiyega, saying her knowledge of public policy and understanding of the government would help her in the job.
Zuma said he had fired Cele based on the report by the chairman of the board of inquiry into Cele’s fitness to hold office, Judge Jakes Moloi.
He said he had a discussion with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa about the corrective measures that needed to be adopted immediately.
"These include management and financial systems as well as the breaches of information security within the establishment, which have ... become common.
"We have in the past few weeks witnessed a disappointing spectacle of police officers jeopardising state security by placing information in the public domain ...
"This is unacceptable and intolerable if the fight against crime is to continue being effective,” he said.
Institute of Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger said the appointment was a slap in the face of police management.
"Clearly, once again, Zuma has not learnt from the previous two mistakes in appointing civilians and politicians to head the police service,” Burger said, referring to Phiyega’s predecessors, the jailed Jackie Selebi and Cele.
He said although, in principle, the reasons for firming up management and financial systems of the police service might appear to be good, Zuma’s stance on information security within the police was "extremely worrying”.
"What we need is another commissioner, like [Nhlanhla] Mkhwanazi, who is prepared to stand up and show the country and the world that there are good, hard-working and honest members within the core of the police,” Burger said.
DA leader Helen Zille described the new commissioner as an act of "desperation” designed to muster support for Zuma ahead of the Mangaung conference.
She said Zuma should have appointed someone with a demonstrable ability to fight crime.
Mthethwa, the ANC Women’s League and police union Popcru welcomed Phiyega’s appointment, saying she brought with her a "wealth of experience on strategic leadership and sound management background” .
Phiyega’s experience within government has been limited. Her only real exposure came when she was appointed by Zuma as chairwoman of the Presidential State-Owned Enterprises Review Committee in October 2010.
Before that, Phiyega spent her time in the corporate sector until she fell foul of Absa chief executive Maria Ramos.
The two had worked together at Transnet, where Ramos was chief executive, and Phiyega had occupied various positions. But, according to sources, she and Ramos had "personal difficulties”.
Phiyega then moved to Absa. But Ramos was then appointed chief executive at the bank and Phiyega knew she "would be squeezed out”.
At the same time as announcing Phiyega’s appointment, Zuma also used the opportunity to announce a cabinet reshuffle, which saw:
- Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele being moved to Correctional Services in place of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula;
- Mapisa-Nqakula replacing Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu;
- Sisulu moved to Minister of Public Service and Administration, replacing Roy Padayachie who died last month; and
- Former Public Enterprises Deputy Minister Ben Martins replacing Ndebele as Transport Minister.
He also appointed several deputy ministers, including Sindisiwe Chikunga to the Transport Department, while Gratitude Magwanishe (not pictured) will be the new Public Enterprises Deputy Minister.
Jeremy Cronin will be the new Public Works Deputy Minister, Hlengiwe Mkhize Deputy Minister of Economic Development, and Mduduzi Manana the new Deputy Minister for Higher Education.