- Published on Tuesday, 07 August 2012 12:27
- Written by Tina Hsu
South Africa's first appointment of a female police commissioner has not come without burning questions from both proponents and critics
Since the dismissal of a disgraced Bheki Cele, the appointment of Mangwashi Phiyega as the new Police Commissioner of South Africa has spurned questions nation-wide.
With a distinguished CV to her name including senior positions at Transnet and Absa and who chairs Jacob Zuma’s state-owned enterprises review committee, Phiyega has clearly established herself.
After leaving school in 1975 she went on to accumulate a variety of academic qualifications from a number of institutions, both international and domestic.
In 1998 she completed the executive management programme at the International University of Singapore after going through the executive business leadership programme at the Wharton Business School in the US.
She has a postgraduate diploma in business administration from the University of Wales.
Her bachelor’s degree was earned at Polokwane University (then the University of the North) in 1981 and was followed by a master’s degree in social sciences.
However the questions that arise point at her lack of policing and intelligence experience despite her distinguished track record. Her appointment was received with both criticism and welcome. The African National Congress Women’s League welcomed it while Freedom Front Plus MP pointed out that political appointments have a history of failure in the police. Her lack of expertise also called for question.
Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ruling ANC has pushed hard – and successfully – for greater gender equality. More than four in 10 South African MPs are now women, one of the highest ratios in the world.
With the appointment of a female figure into this role, many South Africans are hoping that this will lead to a curve in South Africa’s rape rate. Phiyega’s gender and role in the police may be significant in providing a stronger focus on fighting female-targeted crimes throughout the country.
Phiyega’s appointment as the first female police commissioner has raised eyebrows, although not particularly for her gender. Many question her ability to enter an organisation that has long been fraught with infighting and politicking.
Johan Burger, a former high-ranking officer who is now a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said: “Her appointment is a vote of no confidence in the senior police management. There are many good, honest and hard-working officers in the senior ranks, and this is a slap in the face. It’s humiliating to have someone brought in from the outside.”
Bheki Cele was dismissed after being ruled “unfit for office” by an inquiry into the irregular signing of a lease worth nearly $100 million for a new police headquarters.
His predecessor, Jackie Selebi, a senior ANC operative in the fight against white-minority rule had been jailed after being sentenced in 2010 to 15 years behind bars for corruption.
During her introduction to the media she said, “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.”