Mixed reaction to Zuma's Phiyega inquiry


ational commissioner Riah Phiyega during National South African Police Service Commemoration Day on September 7, 2014 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa.

PRETORIA – President Jacob Zuma’s decision to appoint an inquiry into national police commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office was met with mixed reactions from politicians, commentators, and ordinary South Africans.

The inquiry, which was announced on Tuesday, is set to investigate Phiyega&39;s leadership, decisions and actions during the violence in Marikana in August 2012 which led to the deaths of 34 miners. Judge Cornelis Claasen has been appointed to head the probe.

Phiyega’s fitness to hold office has been in question since the Marikana Commission&39;s findings were released in June. 

Lawyers representing the miners affected by the violence have welcomed the inquiry.

"He (Zuma) ought to have even gone further and stated the terms of reference of the commission of inquiry. Why would the national police commissioner go and lie and mislead the commission, simply because of the fact that according to our clients, she wanted to protect political heads," said Andries Nkome, one of the lawyers.

“Riah Phiyega probably just found out politicians will throw you under the bus even if you lie on their behalf,” commented constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos on Twitter.

Both the DA and the EFF welcomed the announcement, but questioned why Phiyega alone was being held accountable for the Marikana massacre.

“The EFF welcomes President Jacob Zuma’s overdue decision to constitute a board of inquiry on national police commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office following her role in the brutal massacre of mineworkers in Marikana,” said EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, adding his party hoped Phiyega would not serve as the scapegoat while the politicians involved in the massacre were left untouched, leading to a “half-baked solution”.

“Phiyega must not be made into the post-apartheid Eugene De Kock who was the sacrificial lamb that was hanged for all apartheid sins,” he said.

The EFF repeated its calls for Zuma to hold Deputy Oresident Cyril Ramaphosa and then-police minister Nathi Mthethwa accountable for the “causal effect on the ultimate decision to plan the mass killings of workers in Marikana”.

The DA, largely echoing the sentiments of the EFF, welcomed the establishment of the inquiry into Phiyega and her capacity to hold office.

“This is one step closer to attaining justice for the victims and families of those who were brutally massacred by a (SAPS) acting with lethal force that day,” said DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard.

“Phiyega, who bares ultimate responsibility for SAPS operations, must be disciplined and ultimately fired.”

The DA says it&39;s surprised Phiyega hasn&39;t already been suspended.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa also weighed in on Twitter, saying: “Zuma appoints board of inquiry into Phiyega… How about her former minister?”

Zuma has given Phiyega until Monday to provide reasons why she shouldn&39;t be suspended pending the outcome of the probe. – Additional reporting ANA