Riah Phiyega, whose real names are Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega, is the current police commissioner of the South African Police Service. She was appointed to the office by Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa on 13 June, 2012. Phiyiga is the first woman to hold this particular post.
Phiyega was born and educated in the Limpopo Provice and she holds a variety of degrees – a BA in Social Work from the University of the North, BA Honours in Social Sciences from Unisa, a Masters degree (MA in Social Sciences from the University of Johannesburg) and a postgraduate diploma in Business Administration from the University of Wales in Cardiff. Thus it is that ignorance and lack of education cannot be cited for her ethical breach in wearing medals which do not belong to her.
She has an employment history with private companies like the Mines and Absa, governmental entities like Transnet, and non-governmental agencies like Child Welfare. She has served on Presidential Review Committees and Independent Commissions and Task Teams and most recently as Commissioner for the Road Accident Fund Commission led by Judge Satchwell.
Despite all these qualifications, which we shall, for the time being, assume to be real, and despite recent fake and false qualifications putting the spotlights on various government and political official, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega turned up on National Police Remembrance Day on 27 January 2014 wearing four medals to which she is not entitled.
The Democratic Alliance queried in parliament what the medals were for. One is a 10-year Commemoration Award (she only has two years of service). Even more bizarre is an award for Phiyega’s Soccer World Cup 2010 Support Award. The unbelievable does not stop there. The third medal was for the 11 police agencies that were amalgamated into one in 1994 – a full eighteen years before she joined the South African Police Services. The fourth medal is a Gold Medal for Outstanding Service despite the fact that crime rates are on the rise, that Marikana is a new national scar, and that rampant police brutality has failed to counter poor investigative procedures to produce a reasonable rate of convicted criminals.
To turn up wearing these medals on a day when fallen police officers and police service dogs are being honoured is to make a mockery of these men, women and canines who died in the service of their country. According to the SA Police Service’s website, the Gold Medal for Outstanding Service is one of the medals awarded in recognition of “deeds of bravery or outstanding/meritorious services”.
However on 23 October 2014, the police ministry announced: “The National Commissioner has satisfied the conferment requirements as stipulated by the respective warrants of these four categories of the four medals which were approved by the designated authority,” Musa Zondi, spokesman for police ministry.
Her immediate predecessors, Commisioner Jackie Selebi, formerly the President of Interpol ended up in jail for corruption and fraud himself. Commissioner Bheki Cele, who was supposed to deal with the embarrassment the South African Police Services causes the country, was removed for corruption as well in October 2011.
I am disappointed that once again the government is turning a blind eye to high level corruption and behaving with disrespect to the people on the ground, especially to those loyal police officers who face death every day, and those who have met it. It is up to us, the people, to counter this corruption wherever we find it, and more importantly, to vote against it at the polls in the next election.