After two acting national police commissioners, South Africa now has a permanent top cop


After having two acting national police commissioners, South Africa again has a permanent top cop with Lieutenant General Khehla John Sithole named to the post by President Jacob Zuma this week.

Political parties and the country’s leading security think tank have cautiously welcomed the appointment of a “professional policeman” to the post with reservations.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald hoped Sithole will bring “much-needed stability” to SA Police Service management structures as he is “an experienced and seasoned policeman”.

He noted that Sithole was the first serving police officer since 1999 to be appointed the country’s top cop. This was also remarked on by Gareth Newham, head of justice and violence prevention at the Institute for Security Studies, in his response to the appointment.
“We welcome an experienced police officer to lead SAPS,” he said adding the country did not have the benefit of “a rigorous appointment process”, something ISS and Corruption Watch were pushing for.
“This leaves South Africans at the mercy of President Jacob Zuma’s judgement – for which the track record is not great.
“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,” he said.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow police minister, Zakhele Mbhele, welcomed the Sithole appointment calling it a move to stable leadership but was not convinced the new man is the best person for the job.
“We do not believe Sithole is the best candidate to turn SAPS in a professional and effective police service that can tackle and reduce crime,” he said.

The DA plans to submit Parliamentary questions to obtain the names of other short-listed candidates and their qualifications “so we can ascertain whether the best possible candidate was appointed”.

He acknowledged Sithole’s appointment as being one of an experienced and senior career officer.

Sithole joined the police in 1986 as a student constable and worked his way through the rank to become a lieutenant colonel in 1995, a director in 1996 as well as serving as assistant police commissioner in three provinces between 2000 and 2010.

Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee also welcomed the Sithole appointment with chairman Francois Beukman pointing out it was “for a while called for the appointment of a competent accounting officer with the energy, strategic vision and innovative plans to fight crime and corruption”.