The issue of political interference within the SA Police Service (Saps) will need to be debated, newly-appointed police commissioner General Mangwashi Phiyega said on Thursday (14/06/2012).
"If there is merit or no merit [to allegations of political interference], for me the jury is still out,” Phiyega told reporters in Pretoria.
"Are we confused about issues of political interference?,” she asked.
Phiyega said it was a case of political interference versus political involvement.
"You get the political side of the police.” She said those on the political side of the police were elected by the people of South Africa.
It needed to be debated whether political involvement was getting confused with political interference.
"With experience, I will give a better interpretation,” said Phiyega.
Tackling corruption was high on her priority list.
"There is corruption in the system... Something needs to be done.”
Phiyega’s first full day on the job will be Friday, when she meets police senior management.
She said she would be going to her office for the first time on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier she defended her lack of policing experience, saying: "I’ve never been a police [officer], but I want to say that you don’t need to be a drunkard to own a bottle store.”
"I can learn... judge me in 12 months time on whether I have a poor learning capacity.” Phiyega acknowledged she did not have all the tools necessary for the job, but said she brought a wealth of other experiences.
"No one is ever complete, but we all have something to give and I believe I have something to give.” Asked how she felt about a police union saying it was an insult that a civilian was appointed as a police commissioner, Phiyega said she was not qualified to deal with that.
However, she added: "I’m prepared to work with anyone who will accept me.” Phiyega was appointed by President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, when he axed her predecessor Bheki Cele.
On Wednesday, Cele advised Phiyega to work with police officers who were out in the field every day, and not just the high-ranking officials.
"Work with the generals, but make sure you work most with your foot soldiers,” he said.
"Take care of the foot soldiers — they are the people fighting crime.” Phiyega said she heard Cele’s message clearly knowing that this was what made him successful.
"We shall reach out,” she said.
Phiyega said she acknowledged the overwhelming task she faced.
"In order to succeed, I acknowledge that it is necessary to consult, listen and learn.” This would be complemented by leading and acting decisively, she said.
Over the next three months she would hold discussions with many police officers.
"We will be working towards a paradigm shift in the police. The training and development of our members will remain a priority...
Strengthening the administrative leg will also be top on the agenda," she said.
Improving internal and external relations in the interest of service delivery, and taking a decisive position on corruption, was also a priority.
Phiyega said she would meet police senior management on Friday, but would not give details on the strategies going forward.
"I am looking forward to wearing the blue uniform, taking my oath and getting involved with the business of policing.”
Phiyega is the first woman national police commissioner in the 99 years of the police’s history. - Sapa