On Tuesday, 12 February 2012 President Jacob Zuma of South Africa fired the National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele after a Board of Inquiry found him unfit for office due to allegations of corruption. This dismissal was conducted in terms of the provisions of section 8(6) (b) (v) of the South African Police Service Act N0.68 of 1995. Cele had served barely two and half years after replacing Jackie Selebi who is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption. According to Zuma, during his tenure Cele had ‘brought much needed passion, energy, expertise and focus that boosted the morale of the police leading to improved productivity and a visible reduction in crime levels.’
Here in Zimbabwe we have had the same Police Commissioner, General Augustine Chihuri for over 20 years. He was appointed in an acting capacity in 1991 and became the substantive Commissioner in 1993. Though he has violated the Police Act many times, including the most glaring violation of declaring himself a ZANU PF supporter, Chihuri has been rewarded with a contract renewal 13 times since 1997. Whilst his South African counterparts barely lasted two years, we don’t expect the President to fire him seeing that Chihuri has ordered the police force not to accept and investigate reports of political violence where the perpetrators are ZANU PF supporters. Zimbabweans, as a result, do not regard the police as being impartial and they are feared rather than respected. The Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Andrew Makoni recently accused the government of using the police to control the day to day lives of Zimbabweans not just in the political arena but even in their private lives using unnecessary brutality. At the same press conference, Zuma announced the appointment of the first South African female Police Commissioner Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega. Commissioner Phiyega is not only the first woman Police Commissioner in South Africa but on the African continent. Before her appointment, she was serving as the Chairperson of the Presidential Review Committee on State Owned Enterprises and Deputy Chairperson of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
This appointment comes as a surprise as she has no experience in law enforcement and in most countries it is a prerequisite for a Police Commissioner to have been a career police officer. Maybe after the performance of the last two commissioners this is why Zuma chose someone with a business background. We shall be watching Commissioner Phiyega as she has a mammoth task ahead of her dealing with crime in South Africa. If we are to go by the indications of the South African Institute of Race Relations based on 2010/2011 statistics, 44 murders, 181 sexual offences, 278 aggravated robberies and 678 burglaries are committed each day in South Africa. Commissioner Cele has to deal with drug lords, hijackings, rape of minors and increasingly vigilante behaviour as a result of poor policing and lack of confidence in the police.
Will she perform better than her two predecessors? Only time will tell.