Robert McBride has been appointed the new head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), the police ministry said on Friday.
His appointment would be effective from Monday.
The Ipid has been without a permanent head for more than a year, following the departure of Francois Beukman.
McBride was part of an Umkhonto we Sizwe group that bombed the Why Not Restaurant and Magoo's Bar in Durban on June 14 1986.
Three people were killed and 69 others injured in the explosion. He was captured and convicted, and sentenced to death. In 1992, he was released after his actions were classified as politically motivated. He was later granted amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
After a spell as a diplomat, McBride became head of the Ekurhuleni metropolitan police, but lost his job after he was charged with drunk driving and defeating the ends of justice. In 2011 he was jailed for two years by a Pretoria magistrate, but successfully appealed.
In late January, the ANC outvoted opposition parties on Parliament's police portfolio committee who opposed McBride's Ipid nomination, largely because of his past brushes with the law.
Police spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said: "Minister [Nathi] Mthethwa wishes Mr McBride all the best in his new role and remains confident that, with the support Ipid management and staff, they will steer Ipid to become an effective and efficient oversight institution within the criminal justice system."
Mthethwa thanked the former acting executive director, Koekie Mbeki, for leading the Ipid over the last year and a half. – Sapa