She was born in Polokwane, a city housed in a province which has eighty percent of their women looking like men. So when she was introduced as the new National Police Commissioner by President Jacob Zuma, South Africans didn’t pay much attention to her [rather masculine] appearance. She was from Limpopo, after all.
But according to a newspaper report published this afternoon, Riah Phiyega has been [secretly] put on special leave pending an investigation about her true gender. It has emerged that she was actually born a man.
“The national police commissioner was born a Victor Phiyega, not a Victoria Riah Phiyega as she claims,” the newspaper article read in part.
The article breathlessly described Phiyega’s childhood as a little boy who loved playing “skotch” barefooted in the dusty streets of Polokwane, along with damning quotes from Phiyega’s alleged childhood friends who confirmed the worst; she was once a he.
Questions around Phiyega’s true gender has been whispered across SAPS corridors, with many calling her “the Castor Semenya of politics”.
Although a statement issued by Riah Phiyega’s office did not confirm nor deny her suspension, they have undermined the credibility of the allegations.
“South Africans, particularly black women, still have a long way to go in embracing who they are… If you are not light enough, or prefer your hair short and natural, and don’t like wearing makeup, you are therefore given all kinds of derogatory names.
“We pray for the day when women will wake up and realise that beauty cannot sustain them. With her dark skin and short natural hair, Victoria Riah Phiyega defied her poor background to become one of the world’s most educated and powerful women. She is Africa’s very first female national police commissioner – a level most of her Barbie-doll critics will never achieve in this lifetime,” read the strong-worded statement.
Riah Phiyega received a BA degree in Social Work from the University of the North, a BA Hons degree in Social Sciences from Unisa, an MA degree in Social Sciences from the University of Johannesburg and a postgraduate diploma in Business Administration from the University of Wales in Cardiff.
She was a Group Executive at Absa Bank Limited, a board member of Absa Actuaries and trustee of the Absa Foundation. She was also a Group Executive at Transnet and served on numerous Transnet subsidiaries.
Phiyega was part of a team of senior executives who were responsible for the restructuring of the old Portnet into two major separate entities: Port Operations and Port Authority.
Subsequent to the above restructuring, she became part of the Executive of the National Ports Authority of South Africa. She served as Director for Development at the National Council for Child Welfare. She spent a few years at the Chamber of Mines as an employee well-being consultant.
Prior to joining the South African Police Service, she was appointed as Chairperson of the Presidential State-Owned Enterprise Review Committee. The Committee was tasked with the responsibility of reviewing State-Owned Entities and to make recommendations for their future repositioning.
Phiyega was the Vice Chairperson for the Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
She chaired the Road Traffic Management Corporation Investigation Task Team which looked into maladministration, corruption and poor corporate governance. The task team made major intervention and restructuring recommendations to the Minister of Transport, assisting to improve the corporation.
Phiyega has served in other significant national structures, which included serving as a board member of the 2010 Bid Committee that managed the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by South Africa and as commissioner for the Road Accident Fund Commission led by Judge Satchwell and grandmother.
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