Military police ranks in effect


The South African police have reverted to the rank nomenclature used up to 1995, with commissioners again being addressed as generals and superintendents as colonels.


National police commissioner General Bheki Cele says the move aims to introduce a sense of discipline among officers. Inspectors are now warrant officers once again and superintendents are lieutenant-colonels. Senior superintendents are colonels. The ranks of constable, sergeant and captain will remain unchanged. Also back are lieutenants and major. Both were abolished in 1995.

Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa last month said police forces around the world are referred to as “the Force” and their ranks are accordingly linked to such designations. “We have taken a stance as this government of fighting crime and fighting it tough. The rank changes are therefore in line with our transformation of the Force, not only in terms of a name-change but change in attitude,
thinking and operational duties.”
“The Ministry is neither naïve nor folly that a mere change in ranks will automatically lead to dramatic decline in crimes [sic]. We are cognizant of the fact that this is a process in progress, in other words, change will not come overnight. This should not be misinterpreted as merely the militarisation of the police but as part of our new approach of being fierce towards criminals, while lenient to citizens’ safety and maintaining good discipline within the Force.
“For us to achieve these and other objectives there are certain steps we have undertaken to ensure we win this war, which by the way has been waged by senseless criminals. This is a people’s war against criminals. For any Force to discharge its tasks effectively there needs to be a commander because wars are led by commanders. Our approach in the fight against crime which is anchored by and large in the intelligence work and what we have done over the past few months and years,” continued Mthethwa.

The police ministry further added the change does not have any legal , constitutional or even significant financial implications for the department, the minister emphasising that the leadership carefully took into consideration this factor and to date all the feasibility checks indicate that it will not.
“The leadership and management of police is intent on attracting quality not quantity in the Force. From time to time we will continuously sharpen our ammunition and arsenals, both tactically and
strategically. The change further talks to our change in mindsets and physique of our Force, which includes amongst others the introduction of gymnasiums at our police stations across the country. This is the new kind of Force we are building and transforming. A force that will have no mercy on any criminal activity but one dedicated towards protecting the citizens of the country,” headded.
“We further need to emphasize that change in ranks alone will not scare criminals to refrain from their wicked acts. To a large extent this is about instilling command and control within police. Practical operations by police who are dedicated in their duties, responding to crime scenes on time, working hard and smart and upholding the highest form of discipline. To this end, the newly formed Tactical Response Team model is currently underway and we have already begun to see
swift responses to crime.
“The idea of a change in police ranks was first mooted in September last year during the first meeting between President Jacob Zuma and over 1000 station commanders from around the country held in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria.”

The Institute for Security Studies’ Gareth Newham says he does not think the change will have the desired effect. “The problems around discipline are more to do with weaknesses in management,” he told Eyewitness News. Newham’s colleague Andrew Faull agreed but said it maye give some officers hope. “With the additional two ranks that will hopefully allow for some career advancement,” said Faull.

Meanwhile, the Police and Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) is considering challenging the police’s new ranking structure in court. POPCRU spokesman Norman Mampane said the move is nonsensical. “We actually have been engaging with our legal representative there is no where in the constitution where they speak of the ‘general’. In our view this matter is unconstitutional.”

Old rank (1995-2010)

New rank (April 1, 2010)




Deputy National Commissioner


Divisional Commissioner

Provincial Commissioner


Assistant Commissioner




Senior Superintendent



Lieutenant Colonel






Warrant Officer

Will require chage in insignia as the word “Inspector” is printed on the flash. The insignia alo uses two stars, reminiscent of the lieutenant’s rank.  





Pic: General Bheki Cele. Police rank insignia will largely remain unchanged, with just titles changing.