National police commissioner Riah Phiyega was suspended on Wednesday after little more than three years in the job.
But things have gone from bad to worse for the commissioner since the shooting in Marikana when police opened fire on 44 people in strike-related unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mine.
Phiyega was barely two months into her new job when the shooting happened on August 16 2012.
Following the shooting, Phiyega came under fire for comments she made regarding the incident.
At the time, the commissioner defended officers’ actions saying they had to use maximum force after coming under attack from armed mine workers.
Three days after the shooting, Phiyega also reportedly said officers should not be sorry about the shooting.
“Safety of the public is not negotiable. Don’t be sorry about what happened,” she said at the funeral of Warrant Officer Sello Ronnie Lepaku who was allegedly killed by striking Lonmin mineworkers.
In 2013, Phiyega was also criticised for allegedly tipping Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer about an investigation against him by crime intelligence.
The Sunday Independent at the time reported that their telephone conversations had been legally recorded by crime intelligence operatives monitoring Lamoer’s calls. Phiyega denied tipping-off Lamoer.
A complaint was then laid against Phiyega with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), which handed over a report about this to the National Prosecuting Authority. In September last year, the NPA decided not to prosecute Phiyega.
Opposition parties have also repeatedly called for Phiyega to step down, saying she was not fit to hold office.
Last month, Phiyega revealed how the country had fared under her watch when she revealed the country’s latest crime statistics.
Murder had increased by 4.6% country-wide, all types of hijackings had increased in Gauteng and a total of 686 cops had been arrested for various crimes in the past financial year.
Increase in crime
The ANC’s parliamentary Chief Whip Stone Sizani said the party was concerned by the increase in contact crimes and contact-related crimes, such as murder, attempted murder and arson.
The DA said it was concerned that the murder rate had gone up for a third consecutive year, all under the tenure of Phiyega.
The latest in a long list of attacks on Phiyega came in the form of a letter written by IPID boss Robert McBride.
The letter was allegedly handed to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko in January and published by Eyewitness News on Tuesday. In it McBride called for President Jacob Zuma to suspend Phiyega for failing to take action against three KwaZulu-Natal officers allegedly implicated in corruption.
McBride said Phiyega “interfered in the investigation of the alleged corruption by suspending [provincial Hawks head Johan] Booysen, who is a key witness in the corruption and bribery cases”, and “instead of disciplining [Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye] Ngobeni for failure to report and investigate allegations of corruption, she initiated disciplinary action against Booysen”.
McBride accused Phiyega of ignoring provisions of the Protected Disclosures Act by testifying on Ngobeni’s behalf during Booysen’s disciplinary hearing where “serious allegations were made” against Ngobeni.
Phiyega apparently gave Booysen three choices instead of taking disciplinary action against him. These were staying on extended paid leave, transferring to another province or buying out his contract with full pay on the remaining years of service.
“The intention of the disciplinary hearing, the instruction to transfer, the offer of retirement were all intended to remove Booysen from the position he legally holds and to finalise the investigation,” McBride said.
“In fact, the conduct of the national commissioner [Phiyega] suggests that the PC [Ngobeni] is incompetent to lead or discipline her subordinates, however, despite that, she extended her contract.”
Lieutenant General Johannes Khomotso Phahlane will be standing in for Phiyega while her fitness to hold office is investigated, the Presidency said. He is currently the divisional commissioner for forensic services at SAPS.