Many people are beginning to think that the post of the national commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS) is a poisoned chalice, that it is bound to end badly for whomever is unlucky enough to be appointed to lead the almost 194,730 employees of the organisation tasked by the Constitution with keeping South Africans safe from crime. It is not unreasonable to hold this view given that in the past decade, seven people — three permanent appointments and four acting appointments — have occupied this post. In each case, the permanent appointment ended poorly following a protracted legal process. The fundamental problem is not due to the rigours of the position, or because no suitable candidates are available to provide ethical and experienced leadership to the organisation. There are several experienced and skilled professional senior police commanders who would more than likely do a good job. The root cause why these people are not appointed is political. The Constitution...

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