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Phiyega takes fight to Baleka Mbete

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Suspended police chief General Riah Phiyega has given Parliament and Speaker Baleka Mbete an ultimatum to rescind a committee report criticising her leadership and her board of commissioners, or face legal action. This is the latest salvo from Phiyega, who has been fighting to keep her job.

In a series of emails to Mbete and parliamentary police portfolio committee chairperson Francois Beukman, which City Press has obtained copies of, Phiyega warns she will go to court if the report is not rescinded.

An email sent by Phiyega’s lawyer, Sandile July, from Werksmans Attorneys last week says that Phiyega objected to several findings of the committee – including one of her entering “the political arena” – which were made “without her being given an opportunity to state her case”.

Phiyega says the committee was “unfair” and “unconstitutional”, and played the role of “complainant and arbiter at the same time”.

“In light of the above, our instructions are that we demand from the committee that it rescinds its decision made on November 11 2015 to adopt … the committee report by no later than November 16 2015.”

Mbete did not respond to the email, but Beukman responded, giving Phiyega until Monday to make written representations to the committee.

However, Phiyega refused to make the representations, saying she would be unable to do so at such short notice.

Beukman has extended her deadline to December 4, which Phiyega said she would also be unable to meet.

“Our client’s inability to meet the deadline of December 4 should not be construed as her unwillingness to cooperate,” said July in an email.

Beukman confirmed that the committee was notified of impending legal action.

“The matter is now with the presiding officer [Mbete], who will guide the process going forward,” he said.

City Press understands that the report will be debated in Parliament in February.

Phiyega is also battling Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, who she accuses of running a “kangaroo court” after he released the findings of a reference group report into her management.

Phiyega’s spokesperson, Solomon Makgale, and her long-time associate deputy commissioner Nobubele Mbekela were served with letters of intent to suspend them this week for their roles in issuing statements in support of Phiyega, which was considered inappropriate.

The statements in support of Phiyega were made by several provincial commissioners in the wake of the impending commission of inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

Makgale was the first one to be served the notice.

Mbekela, who also publicly announced her support for Phiyega, faces suspension for several reasons, including that she said on radio: “The men of the country are attacking women in the country.” She said this in the context of her support for Phiyega after a board of inquiry was announced into her fitness to hold office.

According to her charge sheet seen by City Press, she faces charges of improper conduct, and the “disgraceful and unacceptable manner” in which she conducted the interview.

Makgale and Mbekela have made representations to the police explaining why they should not be suspended. Makgale wrote through his lawyers that his “conduct amounted to nothing more than him carrying out his functions as head of communications”.

Mbekela’s lawyers made a submission to acting national commissioner Lieutenant General Johannes Phahlane, saying the inquiry recommended by the portfolio committee was still subject to review and “under consideration by the Speaker”.

Mbete could not be reached for comment. News24


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