ACTING national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane on Thursday defended the shake-up in the senior management of the South African Police Service (SAPS), and rejected the notion that it was a purge of Riah Phiyega loyalists.

He also reported improvements in the operations of the detective branch of the SAPS in a briefing to Parliament’s police committee.

There have been reports of Gen Phiyega appointees complaining that they were being targeted.

However, Gen Phahlane told Business Day that the support of deployed or transferred officers was not the issue; getting suitable people in the right places was.

Gen Phahlane told the committee that the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union had challenged some of the restructuring in the Labour Court, but the case was dismissed on its merits. The union had charged that the restructuring was not in line with an agreement with social partners and called for the redeployments to be reversed.

Gen Phahlane said the decisions taken made business sense.

He also told MPs that the turnaround strategy, known as Back to Basics, had reduced the backlog of unsolved case dockets 20% in three months.

The plan centres on national and provincial intervention teams visiting police stations and staying there for five days until improvements are recorded. There were 18 interventions by the national team and 55 by provincial teams, and the review of case dockets resulted in the arrest of 466 people.

Gen Phahlane, who was appointed in October following the suspension of Gen Phiyega, said the backlog of 600,178 dockets, between one and 10 years old, had been reduced to 480,753.

African National Congress MP Angie Molebatsi said officers were now reporting renewed excitement in doing their work.

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said there must have been a lot of officials not doing their work who were now performing as a result of what was being called "consequence management".

Democratic Alliance MP Marius Redelinghuys said he could see a change in the quality and tone of police leadership.