As a former crime reporter – with the Windhoek Advertiser, The Star and The Sunday Times – I can only wonder at the qualities that are needed nowadays to become a police commissioner. Not one of the last three, Jackie Selebi, Bheki Cele or Riah Phiyega, has ever spent a day in a police training academy. Nor had any of them ever pounded the beat or been asked to investigate a crime, serious or otherwise. And if they had been, would any of them have known what to look for; would they know what a clue looks like? They’re not career policemen or women, as their predecessors were.

Being appointed police commissioner because one has office skills, which, apparently, is why the present commissioner was appointed, isn’t good enough. Put simply, none of them had been trained in police work, so they don’t or didn’t have the most important skill needed to handle the job. Office skills aren’t essential in that position.

Making it unnecessary to be a career policeman or woman to rise to the top effectively eliminates all candidates who do have all the skills needed to rise to the top from joining the force.

They know the top has been closed off and reserved for those whose politics please the president.

This was not always so, even in apartheid’s darkest hour. One example: Brigadier Theo Crous, an ardent United Party (opposition) supporter, was appointed divisional commissioner for South West Africa, now Namibia, when Hendrik Verwoerd was at his peak.

AD Pincus

Highlands North, Joburg