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President Cyril Ramaphosa this afternoon announced that General Sehlahle Fannie Masemola has been appointed as South Africa’s new national police commissioner, replacing Kehla Sithole who finishes his last day in office today.  

Reaction has been cautiously optimistic, and Corruption Watch, too, welcomes the steps taken by Ramaphosa to appoint the new national commissioner of the South African Police Service (Saps), some of which were in accordance with the National Development Plan, as well as Corruption Watch’s own proposals to improve this particular selection process.  

The organisation did express some concern and disappointment, particularly at the lack of transparency and public participation in the appointment process.  

“This seems to be retrogressive, when comparing it to other presidential appointment proceedings such as those of the national director of public prosecutions, the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, and the chief justice,” said Kavisha Pillay, head of stakeholder relations and campaigns at Corruption Watch. 

The organisation acknowledges that the establishment of an independent panel to conduct the appointment proceedings, and the use of merit-based criteria in the assessment of candidates, sets a positive precedent for future appointments to this position.  

“By ensuring an open and transparent process, however, the public would have had a better understanding of General Masemola’s experience, skills and knowledge, which would have helped to build much-needed trust in the police service,” Pillay added. 

This would be in line with the many interventions that Corruption Watch has made in advocating for more transparency in leadership appointments, as outlined in its annual report, released today. 

The Presidency, meanwhile, said Masemola’s appointment as police commissioner will ensure continuity in the most senior position in the police service following Sitole’s departure from office. The former has served as the deputy national commissioner responsible for policing since April 2016, 

“General Masemola has … an outstanding record of achievements and policing across South Africa,” Ramaphosa tweeted. “This includes with helping with the de-escalation of violence in KwaZulu-Natal after our first democratic elections where he was stationed. General Masemola also brings to this position his experience in drastic reducing of cash-in-transit heists in the period around 2016.” 

The police ministry, too, welcomed the appointment.  

“We are optimistic that this shift in the Saps top management will not derail the efforts in place to build on an efficient and trustworthy police service that is accessible to all our people and is unapologetic about preventing, combating and investigating crime, maintaining public order, and upholding and enforcing the law,” said police minister Bheki Cele in a statement.