BEST FOOT FORWARD AND READY TO TAKE CONTROL
By: Nomfundo Xolo
“I am not a second hand man, but I am a first class woman,” said Mangwashe Victoria Phiyega, accompanied by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the press conference in Durban, on Friday 22 June.
She received a warm welcome from the provincial MECs for Safety and National Security in a review meeting on the progress of crime. “As women we feel proud that we are actually leading in the fight against crime. This is at the top of her priorities that we were able to share with her and she has agreed to make it her first priority to fight against women and child abuse,” said Faith Mazibuko, Safety and Security MEC for Gauteng.
General Phiyega was appointed by President Jacob Zuma as the new National Commissioner. This follows the announcement of Bheki Cele’s dismissal on Tuesday and Phiyega as his successor. “It is a vote of confidence that is being given to women by the president. It shows a lot of transformational leadership, for him to have decided that a woman can play a role in this position, for me it is a vote of confidence,” Phiyega said. It is the first time in 99 years that South Africa has had a female Police Commissioner and the second time in African history. Without any doubt, she has made a trademark for women.
Her job not only comes with the responsibility to represent women, but also prove she is capable and can manage to do so without any law enforcement experience. With critics already claiming that is just another element to the police dysfunctional controversy saga, she stands to prove them wrong. “I think this is a great opportunity,” added Phiyega. “I believe young women should know that there is a possibility for us women to do some of these very important tasks.”
Phiyega has started working under this title for eight days, and it is evident that she will have a lot on her table, having to also do some ‘damage’ control caused by the former Police Commissioner Bheki Cele. Born in Polokwane, she has quite a handful of job titles and qualifications to her name. She is famously known as the successful business woman, with Management, Business and Social Sciences qualifications. She is currently the chairperson in the Presidential Review Committee on the state owned enterprises. She also holds a Masters in Social Sciences from the University of Johannesburg and a Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Wales.
It is not the first instance where South Africa has had a woman hold such a prominent position. Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka was the first female deputy president and was appointed by former president Thabo Mbeki. Inevitably that did not turn out well, however, with those results not dependant on gender, now all eyes gaze on the second woman in Africa with the title: National Police Commissioner.
The question of whether she will be able to live up to the expectations, which are mainly of rehabilitating and reforming the negative image of police and police officials, remains to be answered as only time can tell. But Phiyega stays adamant that she will deliver. “I am committed and I want to ensure that I will do it well so that it becomes a ladder that we can all climb in future, and I will do my best to represent women,” pointed out Phiyega.
What is definitely evident from the newly appointed Police Commissioner is the confidence and method of plan she comes equipped with. She seems to understand the challenges that will come with the job, one which is to fight the disease, corruption. “Corruption is a priority for South Africa, not just for the South African Police Services (SAPS) but as a nation, we will fight corruption,” she added.
With the majority of her experience based on her social work, this means change indeed is to be expected. She is yet to prove that one does not need a police uniform in order to qualify as a Police Commissioner who is also very capable of excelling or failing dismally at doing so; like we have seen from our highly qualified previous commissioners; Jackie Selebi and Bheki Cele.
Overwhelmed by her presence, style, confident and motherly attention, she has the power to influence a room filled with men. It’s assured that this woman will be making headlines from now on. What is also obvious is the tough road ahead for her in restoring the damaged image of the police. She said she plans to show the police force how a woman does it. “I still want to be a mother, an aunt, I want to be the best leader I can be, representative for women and I also want to be a home executive,” she said. It’s quite a handful and to some might even sound impossible, but with that skill granted to women having the ability to multi-task, she believes nothing will stop her. “For me balance is important and I also need to be supported by a family and by a husband who understands my role and I have been lucky so far,” she added.