With regard to the recent appointment of Mangwashi Phiyega as the new South African National Police Commissioner, I believe there are few basic attributes that are common to most, if not all, great organizational leaders:
• A fundamental working knowledge and understanding of their industry / sector.
• Solid management and administrative skills
• Excellent people skills - especially when it comes to identifying, appointing and empowering people that have what it takes to run business units effectively.
• The ability to formulate coherent strategies and set challenging but achievable goals.
• A style of leadership that is based on having a clear vision for the organization and the ability to motivate others in the organization to share their passion for the vision and have the will to fulfil it.
• The ability to clearly articulate the organisation’s vision, goals and plans to people outside the organization.
• A highly driven personal work ethic coupled with impeccable morality, honesty and ethics.
Judge for yourself if Ms Mangwashi Phiyega displays these attributes. I’m not saying that she does not have any skills or competence at all; she has a solid track record in welfare and administration, but is she the right person for the job of National Police Commissioner?
Aside from the general attributes I have listed above I would add that for an appointment of this nature it is important that the appointee is seen as completely politically neutral. Any association or perceived association with a political party, group or senior official that exceeds the normal professional relationship could easily create the impression that the appointee could have a political agenda of their own or be soft on crime if it committed by individuals that have the right connections. Given that the last two South African National Police Commissioners have been occupationally ineffective, politically embarrassing and of questionable morality it is more important than ever to ensure that the next incumbent is clearly perceived to be independent and to have been appointed on the basis of proven skills and ability rather than connections and political suitability.
I would like to throw out a, possibly contentious, idea. What about bringing in a police commissioner from outside of our borders to break the cycle of inefficiency and political bootlicking? Employ a top cop from one of the world’s most well-known and highly regarded police forces to shake things up a bit. This person could be appointed on a fixed term contract of between five to ten years and given a clear mandate to re-structure the South African Police Service to the point where it operates according to international norms and best-practice methodologies.
Being a foreigner will bring its own challenges but at least the person is unlikely to be connected to corrupt officials within the organisation and will be far more likely to be politically neutral and objective than anyone that has spent a substantial amount of time in the local civil service or political structures.
There have been some comments made in the last few days that President Jacob Zuma could not simply appoint a successor to General Bheki Cele from among the senior police Generals as some of them may also have been involved in maladministration or corruption, either under his watch or under the leadership of his predecessor, Jackie Selebi. A foreign appointee with a proven track record as a highly efficient senior policeman should be able to tell the difference between senior officials that are where they are through competence and a dedication to police work and those that were pushed into their positions because of political, family or other connections. The first group can then be empowered and supported and the second group worked out of the organisation. Once this is done a few capable individuals will stand out and one of these people could well be groomed into an excellent future police commissioner.
I know this seems like a drastic measure but we have a crisis on our hands and something bold has to be done. The time for making minor changes and hoping for major results is over. The SAPS needs a complete overhaul not just a little backyard tinkering.
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