Tongue firmly in cheek, but meaning every word, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow police minister is willing to “bestow” a fifth medal on National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega if she resigns.
Dianne Kohler Barnard was commenting on the answer she received to a Parliamentary question about the be-medalled chest the country’s top cop puts forward at parades.
Phiyega received four medals in the two years she has been the most senior police officer in South Africa from former Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa.
They are the SA Police Service (SAPS) 10 Year Commemoration Award; “a Gold Medal for Outstanding Service”; the World Cup 2010 Support Award for Officers and an amalgamation medal for the 11 police agencies integrated into a single service in 1994.
Starting with the 10 year service award, Kohler Barnard “congratulated Commissioner Phiyega for the amazing feat of earning this medal in her two years of service. No-one else would have been able to pull off 10 years of excellence in two short years”.
On the Gold Medal for Outstanding Service, she “applauded” the Police Minister for his “excellent judgement” in awarding this medal to the National Police Commissioner.
“With crime rates on the rise, Marikana, police brutality, mall robberies escalating out of control, thousands of convicted criminals in the SAPS and many other issues still outstanding, one can clearly see how the Commissioner’s ‘excellent service’ has affected the SAPS.
“With wise decisions such as this one, it is a mystery why President (Jacob) Zuma had Mthethwa demoted to the arts and culture portfolio.”
On the top cop’s World Cup Support Award, Kohler Barnard was scathing, saying it is arguably Phiyega’s greatest achievement.
“It is incredible she was able to earn this award given that the FIFA Soccer World Cup took place a full two years before the Commissioner even joined the police.”
The feisty MP was also no holds barred on the amalgamation medal.
“This is extremely well done given that this too, preceded her time at the SAPS by far, in fact by 18 years.”
Pieter Groenewald, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) police spokesman, was also not happy about the National Commissioner’s medals, calling them an embarrassment not only for the police service but for the whole country.
“The issue (Phiyega’s medals) creates the impression South Africa does not award medals on merit but on the strength of political connections,” he said, adding this reflected badly on South Africa’s standing as an Interpol member.
“Phiyega is a political appointment and was, prior to her appointment, never in the police service. A medal for 10 years’ service is an outstanding medal which is awarded for outstanding service. Ordinary members of the police are proud of it as it is recognition of their hard work.
“The awarding of this medal to Phiyega who was only appointed in 2012 infringes on the dignity of the medal and makes it cheap. It infringes on the pride of her hard-working colleagues who have been awarded this medal and who have earned it.
“Phiyega should give the medals back if she attaches any value to the loyal and outstanding service of members of the Police,” Groenewald said.