The new national police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, says he will not bow to political pressure or interference, News24 reported. Sitole's appointment was announced by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday.
Sitole said that if he was ever put in a position where he had to do something outside of his operational duties at the behest of the police minister, he would push back.
"Firstly, let me start by saying, it is my responsibility to orientate the minister on all operational policies that govern the police. The role of the minister is policy and strategic direction and my role as commander of the police is execution of policing and these are two roles that have got no confusion," he reportedly said.
Times Live reported that this is the first time in 22 years that a career policeman has been appointed as police commissioner. The last career policeman to be appointed was General George Fivaz who was appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1995.
Sitole reportedly joined the police in 1986.
There was cautious optimism about his appointment. Corruption Watch reportedly said it was pleased that Sitole had the necessary experience for the job.
"We have called for the new commissioner to be experienced in police service and we are pleased to note General Sitole's long record of service and vast experience. Lt-General Sitole is the sixth national commissioner to be appointed by Zuma. The majority of the previous commissioners lacked both the necessary skills and expertise‚ resulting in a crisis of leadership that has had a devastating effect on public safety‚ with murder and aggravated robbery on the rise in the last few years," the organisation said.
His appointment was welcomed by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), while the DA said he was not the best candidate for the job.
Daily Maverick reported that Sitole has been scandal-free during his career, and that his appointment was welcome by the chair of the portfolio committee on policing in Parliament, Francois Beukman, who said: "In our interactions with him he's a straightforward and down to earth person, I think we've got to expect he will be able to deal with the issues in the policing environment."
Policing expert Johan Burger reportedly expressed similar sentiments: "He was one of the less prominent of the lieutenant-generals in the police in the sense that he never drew any negative attention from what we know and from what some senior people tell me."