ISS news release: Zuma appoints new national commissioner of police 23 November 2017

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) welcomes the appointment of an experienced police officer as the new national commissioner. Lt-General Khehla Sithole has a difficult task ahead of him to professionalise the South African Police Service (SAPS) and tackle serious violent crime that is plaguing the country at the moment.

Sithole has the kind of track record that should be required of national police commissioner candidates, and currently there are no allegations that suggest he lacks the integrity, skills or expertise for the powerful post of SAPS National Commissioner.

The ISS and Corruption Watch have been calling for stricter criteria and a transparent appointment process, as laid out by the National Development Plan.

‘While we welcome an experienced police officer to lead the SAPS, the fact that we do not have the benefit of a rigorous appointment process leaves South Africans at the mercy of President Zuma’s judgement – for which the track record is not great,’ said Gareth Newham, head of Justice and Violence Prevention at the ISS.

‘South Africans will once again find out through experience whether their new police chief has the qualities required to lead and protect – a process which has cost the country dearly for the last decade.’

President Jacob Zuma and Lt-General Khehla Sithole

Sithole’s first test will be how he tackles individuals within the SAPS who bring the institution’s reputation into disrepute. An urgent priority is to clean out the upper echelons of the SAPS of people who have been irregularly appointed or who need to respond to evidence of serious misconduct and criminality.

A key indicator of whether this is happening or not is if Sithole ensures an independent disciplinary inquiry is completed against disgraced Lt-General Richard Mdluli as a matter of urgency. Mdluli has cost the tax payer millions of Rands while on suspension – with full pay and benefits – due to the various criminal trials against him.

To provide the more than 194 000 men and women employed in the SAPS with the necessary training, resources and strategic guidance, Sithole will have to act with speed to implement the audit of senior police commanders as required by the National Development Plan.

This is the only way he will be surrounded by highly experienced commanders of integrity that can support him to improve policing. Sithole will also have to withstand the massive political pressure that will be brought to bear on him to interfere in investigations against powerful political and business interests.

Nevertheless, the ISS wishes Sithole well and will support him in his difficult tasks of improving policing, reducing violent crime and corruption, and withstanding the intense political interference he is bound to experience.

The leadership crisis in South Africa, identified by the National Development Plan, is echoed in the intelligence community. The Hawks leadership position is currently vacant. This position is filled at the behest of Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, and as things stand, no procedural transparency is required for this position either.

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