South African President Jacob Zuma has suspended National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, pending an inquiry into allegations of misconduct, his office said on Wednesday.
Zuma’s office in September launched an investigation into the police chief’s role in the 2012 killing of 34 miners by officers during a violent wildcat strike over pay at the Marikana mine run by platinum producer Lonmin
The presidency said a three-member board would look into whether the country’s first female police boss and other senior police officers had concealed information on decisions they took while handling labour unrest at Lonmin’s operations.
Zuma’s office also said he had appointed Johannes Khomotso Phahlane, the commissioner for Forensic Services, as acting National Police Commissioner.
The police spokesman was not immediately available to comment on behalf of Phiyega.
“The suspension is … pending any decision that is made following upon the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry into allegations of misconduct, her fitness to hold office and her capacity to execute official duties efficiently,” Zuma’s office said in a statement.
The statement said her suspension was “with immediate effect and on full pay.”
South Africa’s worst police killing since the end of apartheid sparked intense public and media criticism toward the police, mining companies, unions, the ruling African National Congress and Zuma himself. An inquiry into the shootings blamed a mining company, police and unions for what became known as the “Marikana massacre.”
Zuma appointed Phiyeka in June 2012, after sacking her predecessor Bheki Cele over the irregular signing of a lease for a new police headquarters worth nearly $100 million.