We need the right top cop

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THERE’S a golden op­por­tu­nity to change the way South Africa ap­points its top rank­ing of­fi­cer when Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula meets with Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on po­lice to­mor­row. Up to now, the ap­point­ment of the na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner has been solely within the pres­i­dent’s pre­rog­a­tive – and the re­sults speak for them­selves.

Jackie Selebi, who promised so much, was sus­pended pur­suant to his con­vic­tion and jail­ing on cor­rup­tion charges. His suc­ces­sor Bheki Cele lasted three years be­fore Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ef­fec­tively fired him.

Riah Phiyega also lasted only three years – man­ag­ing to over­see the Marikana mas­sacre in that short pe­riod – be­fore be­ing sus­pended.

Now Mbalula has ended act­ing com­mis­sioner Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Kho­motso Phahlane’s ten­ure, pend­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate.

The port­fo­lio com­mit­tee wants a panel process to vet can­di­dates, who will then be short­listed and sent to the pres­i­dent for his se­lec­tion for ap­point­ment.

The com­mit­tee also wants the Civil­ian Sec­re­tar­iat for Po­lice in­volved. It’s dif­fi­cult to find a sin­gle rea­son against this.

We have a panel to in­ter­view prospec­tive judges, so why don’t we have one for our top cop? Why stop there?

And we should have the same process for the ap­point­ment of our top prose­cu­tor, the na­tional direc­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions.

It’s the only way we can be as­sured that the right peo­ple are be­ing ap­pointed.

By right peo­ple we mean can­di­dates who not only have proven track records, but also proven plans of how they will shape the or­gan­i­sa­tion, in this case the po­lice, if they are ap­pointed.

The right peo­ple would also be can­di­dates who have the sup­port of, and would be able to in­spire con­fi­dence in and lead, the men and women in blue. Thus far, the only na­tional com­mis­sioner who has come close to ful­fill­ing that has been Cele. The oth­ers have all been seen as po­lit­i­cal im­po­si­tions. We can’t af­ford that any longer. We need proper, ac­count­able and trans­par­ent lead­er­ship of this vi­tal com­po­nent of our jus­tice sys­tem – and we fi­nally have a min­is­ter in Mbalula who ap­pears to be com­mit­ted to ac­tu­ally get­ting the job done.

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