We need the right top cop
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.