By Ernest Mabuza
Johannesburg — A NUMBER of challenges face newly appointed police commissioner Bheki Cele as he takes over one of the largest police services in the world.
But the advantage for him is that he is not completely new to the task of fighting crime, analysts say.
Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger said Cele worked closely with the police in KwaZulu-Natal for years and they had a good relationship with him.
"He has to make a transition from being a political head to being an operational head of the police."
Cele is a former transport, community safety and liaison MEC in KwaZulu-Natal.
Burger said Cele should devise a viable plan to fight crime while finding "ways to assure police officers that he will be acting on their behalf".
He said Cele should deal with problems with officers' low morale as they had not had a permanent commissioner for 18 months. He also had to deal with restructuring concerns.
"He should also ensure that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks) unit is firmly in place as soon as possible," Burger said. The unit was officially formed earlier this month and took over the work that was done by the Scorpions.
Burger said the police had about 190000 officers spread out over the country and Cele had to visit all the provinces to see for himself the challenges faced by the police.
David Bruce, a senior researcher in the criminal justice programme at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, also highlighted the fact that the South African Police Service was one of the largest police services as it was controlled by the central government. In other countries, policing responsibilities are delegated to individuals states, cities or federal districts. Bruce said it was difficult to be in charge of such a big service with myriad challenges.
"In recent years, there has been an emphasis on increasing the size of the service," Bruce said.
The new commissioner would need a clear vision of policing that he must develop but this must be within the parameters of the constitution.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesman Benzi ka-Soko said Cele was a no-nonsense individual who would send a message that policemen could not be "cannon fodder" for criminals who had displayed disregard for the sanctity of human life.
Ka-Soko said the commissioner should pressure Parliament to ensure that policemen were given wide powers to use force in effecting arrests. He added that Cele should ensure police officers' working conditions were improved and resources were readily available to them
"Tough talk is not enough. the commissioner should be motivated, should be a hands-on leader."
He said the fact that Cele had worked with police and understood working conditions was an advantage.
In allAfrica.com .