Stomach in, Cele out

General Bheki Cele has been fired by President Jacob Zuma and replaced by another politician in Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

General Bheki Cele has been fired by President Jacob Zuma and replaced by another politician in Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega will replace Bheki Cele as national police commissioner, President Jacob Zuma announced on Tuesday.

“Ms Phiyega brings a wealth if experience as a senior executive who understands the responsibility of government in the fight against crime and the duties imposed in dealing with state assets.

“I have every confidence that she will show leadership and conduct herself well as national commissioner,” Zuma told reporters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Phiyega’s appointment marks yet another elevation of a politician to the head of the South African Police Service, the third since 2000.

She has no policing experience and has worked as an executive for institutions ranging from Transnet to Absa. She was recently appointed as chairperson of the presidential state-owned enterprises review committee and is vice-chairperson for the independent commission for remuneration of public office bearers.

Although presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj recently defended political appointments to public institutions like SAPS, as there was a need to install “people who could be trusted”, the move has been slammed by analysts.

Dr Johan Burger, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice programme told the Mail & Guardian that appointing politicians to head the SAPS was “reckless”.

“We have proof of what happens when you have political appointments – they are an utter failure. The worst thing about them is that they lead to further bad appointments by the politically elected subject across the board.

“You can’t have a critical post like this being filled by anyone other than a career policeman – it’s as simple as that,” Burger said.

Maharaj said it was the “president’s prerogative” to decide who is appointed to head the SAPS.

“He is obviously of the opinion that she will fulfill her duties to the best of her ability and is the right lady for the job,” Maharaj said.

Judicial inquiry
Before announcing Phiyega’s appointment, Zuma lauded Cele’s contribution to the fight against crime.

“I would like to extend my personal gratitude to General Cele for the unquestionable commitment to his work as national commissioner.
Leading from the front, he brought much energy, expertise and focus that boosted the morale of the police leading to improved productivity and a visible reduction in crime levels,” Zuma said.

Cele was recently the subject of a judicial inquiry by Jakes Moloi, after it was alleged he acted corruptly in his dealings with two police lease deals signed with businessman Roux Shabangu - one for a building in Durban the other in Pretoria.

The inquiry was instituted after public protector Thuli Madonsela found Cele guilty of “improper and unlawful” conduct in relation to the deals in 2011.

The inquiry, whose report was recently submitted to Zuma, alleged Cele could not adequately and professionally fulfill his duties as police commissioner and was thus unfit for office.

Questionable relationship
The report is also purported to have claimed there was a questionable relationship between Cele and Shabangu.

Known for his flamboyant dress sense, Cele was controversially appointed police commissioner in 2009. His tenure will be remembered for his reckless “shoot to kill” statements, when he called on police officers to “fight fire with fire” when combating crime.

Although crime statistics showed a marginal improvement under Cele’s reign, there was also an increase in the amount of complaints initiated with the Independent Complaints Directorate against police officers.

Zuma did not rule out Cele’s future involvement in the public service. “General Cele still has a lot to contribute to the country given his experience and commitment to making South Africa a better place for all each day,” he said.

It was previously rumoured Cele would be taking up an ambassadorial post overseas.

Via a statement, Cele thanked all those who helped him “turn around the SAPS”.

He said he would challenge his removal for office if “they were based on the findings of the judicial inquiry”.

Phiyega told the Mail & Guardian she was excited about her appointment.

“I am deeply humbled by this vote of confidence and I look forward to serving with dignity and humility,” she said.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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