New top cop leapfrogged 30 to 40 seniors

2011-10-30 15:30

Johannesburg - Former top cops have expressed surprise at the appointment of Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi as acting national police chief, citing his lack of managerial experience.

President Jacob Zuma appointed Mkhwanazi after suspending General Bheki Cele for charges relating to his involvement in the procurement of two police buildings.

Retired ace detective Bushie Engelbrecht said Zuma skipped more than 20 more senior generals who could have been appointed.

“Mkhwanazi definitely does not have the management experience. Maybe the president wants to get rid of dead wood,” he said.

Mkhwanazi, 38, was still a major general on Monday, but as criticism mounted over his junior status Zuma silently promoted him to lieutenant general on Wednesday.

Former national police commissioner George Fivaz said normal practice was to consider the line of seniority in the police. “Maybe the President did and still found Mkhwanazi to be better suited.”


Engelbrecht, who served with many senior officers until his retirement last year, said he hoped police management would support Mkhwanazi.

Two other senior police sources said they were afraid that Mkhwanazi would be the biggest loser in his sudden elevation.

“The police is a very bureaucratic institution. Age and experience weigh heavy. What must the 30 to 40 officers who he jumped [in rank] be feeling now?” asked one source.

Both agreed that they were “shocked” and “astonished” at ­Zuma’s choice to lead the police.

“He is undoubtedly talented, but he is still young. He is a boy. What will happen if the pressure is too much?” said one source.

Mkhwanazi was identified a few years ago as a young police officer who should be groomed for leadership.

He rose through task force ranks and was promoted this year to the rank of major-general, heading the police’s operational services, which include public order ­policing units.

“He is a qualified policeman, but has very few management skills. He knows nothing about finances and managing structures. This [appointment] could actually be to his disadvantage,” said a senior police source.

Fivaz and Engelbrecht both agree it is high time a police chief was appointed from within the ranks of the police.

Cele hailed

“I still believe if you want to be rugby captain then you had to have been a good rugby player,” Engelbrecht said.

Despite being suspended for suspicious behaviour, Cele was hailed as one of the best police chiefs the country has seen.

Fivaz described Cele as a hard-working, very committed man who has no ill will.

“Many see him as a cowboy because he sometimes made weird statements, but I think he has realised that too.”

Engelbrecht has known and worked with Cele since the early 90s when KwaZulu-Natal was a hotbed of political violence.

“He is very disciplined, stood by his officers and really made an impact on the police force in the past two years. I fully supported his move to bring back the old military ranks because the police has a para-military role and needs to be disciplined.”


Frans Cronjé, deputy chief executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said Cele’s suspension was “tragic” because he was on the right path to “fix” the police.

“A few years ago police officers looked like skollies. Today Cele’s ‘stomach in, chest out’ refrain has paid off. He also brought back many of the specialist units such as child protection and was responsible for the enormous security success of the World Cup.

“The crime rate has been dropping since 2003, but the drop has escalated during his two years in office,” Cronjé said.

Cronjé said if Cele had not put himself in the position that led to his suspension, he could have been the best commissioner since 1994.

  • Hermann - 2011-10-30 15:54

    So what is new? This happened under the Nats regularly. On the positive side it looks like nepotism and cadre deployment are now calling in the accounts.

      Van - 2011-10-30 21:16

      zoomer applied the bones and then his mind. Eish, what a loser.

      George - 2011-10-31 10:55

      "Mkhwanazi, is a qualified policeman, but has very few management skills. He knows nothing about finances and managing structures. This [appointment] could actually be to his disadvantage,” said a senior police source. So Cele knew a lot about finances hence the lease debacle.

  • En - 2011-10-30 16:15

    It must be tough and confusing for some News24 bloggers to see names like "Engelbrecht" and "Cronjé" prasing Cele. When Cele was going through all the lease hype, all people could say was how useless he was and the "worst thing that could have happened to the police". Nice to see people who actually work in this field and know what they're talking about, praise Cele. Cele worked hard to bring down crime, fact. About the new appointment, people will never be happy. This report fails to mention that a lot of the 'more qualified' personel are pushing retirement age. Sometimes you need young blood to boost any organization. He is already an experienced officer, and skills such as financial management can be gained over time. I doubt any police chief in the history of SA has to stay over night to balance books and check receipts, so it's not as if he needs a masters in accounting. Good luck to him....

      Chris - 2011-10-30 16:35

      Don't forget Ethics 101, not sure if the Police colleges offer this module though

      Myth - 2011-10-30 20:42

      I see my comment disappeared...

  • eben.ferreira1 - 2011-10-30 16:41

    I see a string of resignations on the horizon

  • Andre - 2011-10-30 16:53

    Good, so a few corrupt cowboys are now left in the cold. It is highly time the cowboys shoot to kill thugs are sorted. We don't have any confidence in the SAPS and hopefully this guy can maybe change this?

  • Dylan Mugabe - 2011-10-30 17:01

    How is a 38 year old grown man still a boy?

      Bokfan - 2011-10-30 17:11

      Perhaps by the same principle that a 35 year old tenderpreneur is a member of the Y (ob) League.

      cosmos.ndebele - 2011-10-30 20:24

      WoW Mr Mugabe????

      Fourhundredkg - 2011-10-30 21:33

      Not much older than the ANCYL leadership.

      Gail - 2011-10-31 10:23

      Dylan if Malema who is 35 is still a youth i.e. a young boy by definition then the same applies to the new police chief. I thought Cele did a really good job and am sorry to see him go over something like the lease of buildings. He has taken it on the chin like a man (ndoda) and not made excuses either. By the same token age should not be a determinating factor when it comes to position. My son turns 28 in two weeks and is a senior legal counsel already albeit not in this country. He is a brilliant mind and action man and linguist and speaks both Mandarin and Arabic which he has learnt to enable him to do his job better. He is also fluent in French and speaks Xhosa and needs little sleep. Wish I had his energy levels.Good luck to the new guy and hamba gahle Cele.

  • William - 2011-10-30 17:04

    oh well, lets see if he can do the job!!!

  • Sizwe - 2011-10-30 17:13

    First the public complained that Cele lined the top echelons of the service with his friends, now in the wake of his suspension those very "friends" are sidelined now the very public says an 18 year veteran of the SAPS is inexperienced? If after eighteen years in the business you have not gained sufficient experience then you are in the wrong business... Secondly what everyone has omitted to add is that the rank of Brigadier is equivalent (by job weighted-EQUATE-) to Director level and the Acting Chief has been serving at that level for more Five years, thus I wonder what is meant by "management" experience as Directors (Brigadiers) are in the Senior Management Service pool of personnel. The last point is simply that some of the so-called senior police managers who were overlooked are in fact bureaucrats who were transferred from other government departments and have not served a day in the streets, they are sworn officers by virtue of office. And we have seen what happens when bureaucrats try to manage a de facto force and not service as if it were an average government department, the most relevant example is DCS (Correctional Services).

      ianmichaelcalder - 2011-10-31 09:04

      Leonard - try "spacebar" after your full stops. Also, he clearly said that deployments of bureaucrats are at best, ineffective. I don't see any support on his part suggesting that cadre appointments are okay? I think you are looking pretty hard for an argument that simply isn't there?

  • Dirk - 2011-10-30 17:17

    These ex policemen, are they naive or have they forgotten in which country they are. Since when is "management skills" important for appointment to a senior position in SA.Abnormal things happen in an abnormal society.

  • Matanje - 2011-10-30 17:46

    Leadership is NOT about know-alls on top; rather it is about collective effort and the organization supporting whomsoever is at the helm. I will rue my South-Africanness the day subordinates support their senior on the basis of his or her age, experience and knowledge only WITHOUT ANY DUE CONSIDERATION FOR "POTENTIAL" AS MKHWANAZI SEEMS TO BE BOAsTING!

  • Goodman - 2011-10-30 20:17

    The President has spoken, Mkhwanazi lead the peace force, 30,40 or 70 dunderheads overtaken must ask themselfs a question and do introspection, if they dont take orders and support you fire them, they are subordinates to you, kick the ass my brother

  • William - 2011-10-31 04:01

    Shows how far down the food chain they had to go to find some one not totally tainted by corruptions. Just a note: What happened to all those good white cops??

      Adrian - 2011-10-31 08:30

      I know a few people who were senior officials in the SAPS, they left when the ANC cam into power for fear of victimisation because they were the same people involved in beating and detaining senior ANC members during Apartheid. They now own Risk Management and Security services. This is the case for some of them, hopefully those still involved with the SAPS will throw their weight behind this 'young' gentleman. By the sounds of it he will need all the help he can get. I support Mkhwanazi's appointment 100%, young blood can transform an organisation. It's seen in the corporate world everyday, hopefully it will work in the public sector.

  • sbonelo.s.ngwenya - 2011-10-31 09:27

    What is wrong with bringing a new,fresh and young blood to lead? Give that 'boy' a chance to prove himself and judge after...another example of people finding it hard to adopt to change.

      khanyib1 - 2011-10-31 09:48

      what's wrong, you ask. Well let's spell it out for you: what's wrong is presently partying up a tsunami in Muritius. That's what's wrong. And don't get this one twisted - in any organisation, when managerial experience is required, you can't fake it or skip it. Again - the partying fattie comes to mind.

  • swavka - 2011-10-31 11:43

    So what - do you really think that Bheki Cele was a cop to start off with - oh please - and he became a general from a nothing.

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