Newly appointed national police commissioner General Khehla Sithole says he will not fall prey to political influence as his responsibility is to align the police minister with all operational policies to avoid deviation from his mandate.
Sithole was appointed by President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday and was introduced by Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula at the police training academy in Pretoria yesterday. He served as deputy national police commissioner for policing operations in 2013 under then national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.
Asked how he would ensure there was no political interference, Sithole said his role was to execute strategic plans and policing policies as set out by the minister of police and that there is “no confusion” about their roles.
“It will be my continuous responsibility to protect the integrity of the South African Police Service. But due to the vision I share and the strategic capacity I have acquired, I don’t foresee myself having to defend it against the minister because I will proactively orientate him. He has a high capacity as minister which he has already demonstrated,” Sithole said.
The general is the first career police officer to become national police commissioner since General George Fivas, who was appointed in January 1995 by Nelson Mandela. Sithole, who joined the police in 1986, is also the first permanent national commissioner since his former boss, Riah Phiyega, was suspended in 2015.
He won an award from the United Nations for drafting a youth crime prevention strategy under Phiyega, which was used by many countries around the world.
Mbalula was elated at Sithole’s appointment, admitting he had a challenging relationship with his predecessor who was acting national commissioner , Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba, as they “differed on directives”.
The minister cited the leaking of crime intelligence information under Mothiba.
“Secret meetings were leaked to journalists. That is anarchy. Police officers leaked confidential minutes, which they got from police generals… I am happy with General Sithole in terms of the outline of his vision… he knows what he is talking about.”