The new national police commissioner faces herculean task
President Jacob Zuma has stunned South Africans with his choice of Mangwashi Phiyega as the new national police commissioner.
There was widespread speculation that Bheki Cele, a marked man since the two scathing reports by the public protector into the police headquarters lease scandals and the damning findings of Judge Jakes Moloi's board of inquiry, would be replaced by yet another ruling party heavyweight.
Policing experts and some opposition parties had called on the president to muster the courage to break with ANC tradition and appoint a career officer with an impeccable track record and impressive management skills to the top job. After all, morale in the SAPS has been buffeted by the graft conviction of former national commissioner Jackie Selebi, the Cele debacle and the scandals surrounding suspended crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli.
Phiyega, who has held senior positions at Transnet and Absa, and who chairs the presidential state-owned enterprises review committee, is neither a political hack nor does she have any policing or intelligence experience.
Will she be up to the formidable task of turning around the SAPS - a vast organisation with a leadership that has been wracked by infighting and politicking?
Phiyega's business track record should enable her to deal with the police's budgetary and financial problems and restore good corporate governance. Judge Moloi was particularly scathing in his report about Cele's failures as the police's accounting officer.
It is widely acknowledged that under Cele, the police made significant progress in the fight against serious crime. Phiyega must continue with this good work - and to do so she will have to first win the confidence of the police's top brass.
Perhaps her biggest challenge will be to shield the SAPS from the politicians so it can do its work without fear or favour, and regain the public's trust in the process.