By Annalise Kempen
Who will be the next National Commissioner of the SAPS? That is the question on many concerned South Africans' lips - especially those of police members, researchers and the SAPS's partners in the fight against crime. There is a chance that this question might already have been answered by the time that you read this article. But if it has not happened yet, then the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Corruption Watch have valuable tips and guidelines about what the process of appointing the next National Commissioner of the SAPS and the Head of the Hawks should entail.
On 5 July 2017, Corruption Watch and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) joined forces to launch a public awareness campaign at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, to focus on the process of determining the appointment of the National Commissioner of the SAPS and the Head of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI [the Hawks]). ISS and Corruption Watch believe that both appointments require a transparent selection process against clear merit-based criteria and that a skilled police leader is key to curbing corruption and crime. David Lewis of Corruption Watch reminded attendees at the launch that the experience of instability of leadership in key law enforcement agencies has impacted seriously on the fight against corruption.
And just before someone criticises these organisations for being arrogant with their campaign, those critics should take note that such a process is exactly what the National Development Plan (NDP), which was adopted by Cabinet in 2012, recommends.
The NDP is clear in envisioning a professional police service to conform with minimum standards, which includes the appointment of the National Commissioner and his/her deputies which “should be appointed on a competitive basis. A section panel, established by the President, would select and interview candidates for these posts. Clear and objective criteria should be established to ensure that the incumbents are respected and held in high esteem by the police service and community”.
Why is having a qualified national commissioner vitally important?
The South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995 stipulates in section 11 that the National Commissioner may exercise the powers and shall perform the duties and functions necessary to give effect to section 218(1) of the Constitution. These powers, duties and functions referred to in that subsection shall include the power, duty and function to -
(a) develop a plan before the end of each financial year, setting out the priorities and objectives of policing for the following financial year;
(b) determine the fixed establishment of the Service and the number and grading of posts;
(c) determine the distribution of the numerical strength of the Service after consultation with the board;
(d) organise or reorganise the Service at national level into various components, units or groups;
(e) establish and maintain training institutions or centres for the training of students and other members;
(f) establish and maintain bureaus, depots, quarters, workshops or any other institution of any nature whatsoever, which may be expedient for the general management, control and maintenance of the Service; and
(g) perform any legal act or act in any legal capacity on behalf of the Service.
In his presentation during the launch of the ISS/Corruption Watch campaign, Gareth Newham, the Head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Division at ISS, said that what happens at the top of the organisation has a profound impact on the safety of South Africa. This impacts the country’s crime rate and ultimately also foreign investments in South Africa.