The newly appointed permanent National Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Khehla Sithole at the Tshwane Police Academy. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA

Johannesburg - The appointment of Lieutenant-General Khehla Sitole as South Africa’s new top cop might have been well received, but he has his job cut out if he is to win the confidence of the public.

First he needs to undertake an audit of the senior police officers whom he will rely on to improve police performance, as part of the implementation of government’s National Development Plan (NDP). Linked with that is the rooting out of corruption and misconduct within the SAPS. This is according to Gareth Newham, head of justice and violence prevention at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS).

“He (Sitole) needs to ensure that each of the 32 lieutenant-generals and 216 major-generals have the skills, expertise and integrity to fulfil the functions of their highly paid posts. Many have been appointed irregularly and are not adding value to the SAPS,” said Newham on Friday.

President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday appointed the experienced Sitole as the national police commissioner. He described him as a seasoned professional and a career policeman with more than two decades of experience in senior management.

While the ISS was among the organisations that welcomed Sitole’s appointment, it said the selection processes remain flawed.

“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 judgment, for which the track record is not great,” said Newham.

On Friday, Newham said it was crucial that Sitole got his priorities right, if he is to win the confidence of the public and the rank and file of the men and women in blue. In addition to getting rid of the rogue elements within the SAPS, he must not pander to anyone, no matter how powerful or how politically connected they are.

“The most urgent priority to demonstrate his political independence is to haul Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli before an independent disciplinary inquiry to answer to the mountain of hard evidence of corruption against him,” said Newham.

Mdluli faces charges over the 1999 murder of Oupa Abel Ramogibe, who was his (Mdluli’s) ex-girlfriend’s husband.

He was also charged with fraud relating to the unlawful appointments of family members as paid police officers to crime intelligence, as well as misusing money from the police’s slush fund to purchase luxury vehicles for his family members. 

Mdluli has cost taxpayers around R8.3million since his suspension in May 2011.

Newham said sanctioning Mdluli would set the right tone for Sitole in his new position.

“That will send a clear signal that he is willing to improve policing. Unless he only has the best men and women in his senior management team, he will not be able to improve policing services provided by the almost 195 000 SAPS personnel."

The NDP is clear, the root of policing deterioration is the ‘serial crises of top management’.”

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula also hailed Sitole’s appointment, saying he was a strategist and the right person to implement the SAPS’s crime-fighting plan.

Asked about the importance of Sitole’s office remaining independent from political interference, Mbalula said: “He’s an honourable man and understands his role, and that question is a hangover. He understands (he needs) to uphold the rule of law and fight crime.”

Saturday Star