Police Leadership Campaign

Police Leadership Campaign – Be inspired

<p><strong>Poor police leadership costs lives and undermines public safety.</strong></p>

Poor police leadership costs lives and undermines public safety.

In a nutshell

The Police Leadership Campaign is a campaign which has been jointly initiated by the Institute for Security Studies and Corruption Watch. The purpose of the campaign is to hold government to account in implementing their own policies for appointing police leaders, with the aim of establishing an independent, robust and active police service. In the long term, the campaign aims to ensure better policing and improved public safety for all in South Africa.

What we do

Background to the Police Leadership Campaign

In July 2017, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Corruption Watch initiated the Police Leadership Campaign. This campaign highlighted that the problem with rising crime and increasing safety concerns in South Africa over the last few years, was to a degree consequent of poor police leadership rather than a lack of police resources. From 2012 to 2017 the SAPS budget expanded by 50%, to R87 billion in 2017. However, this budget increase did not result in a decrease in violent crimes. Rather, there has been a rise in violent crime since the 2011/2012 period as highlighted by the upturn in the homicide rate since then.

A series of poor appointments for the Head of the Hawks and the SAPS National Commissioner has arguably contributed to this rising crime and the inability of the police to effectively deal with it. Corruption and incompetence in police leadership over the last few years have seriously thwarted the fight against crime and corruption in South Africa.

Currently, there are only three criteria required for choosing the SAPS National Commissioner, this is in comparison to the 18 criteria required to be a SAPS constable. The criteria for being a national commissioner of police are that the individual:

a) be a South African citizen;

b) be over 18 years of age; and

c) that they do not have a criminal record. 

The president is responsible for appointing the SAPS National Commissioner, and the Police Minister is responsible for appointing the Head of the Hawks.

The National Development Plan

The National Development Plan (NDP) outlines how the SAPS National Commissioner and deputy commissioners should be appointed. The NDP states:

''The National Commissioner of Police and Deputies should be appointed by the President on a competitive basis. A selection panel, established by the President, should select and interview candidates for these posts against objective criteria. The President should appoint the National Commissioner and Deputies from recommendations and reports received from the selection panel. This would enhance the incumbents’ standing in the eyes of the community and increase the respect accorded to them by their peers and subordinates.''

In 2012, the African National Congress (ANC) and the cabinet accepted the NDP recommendations.

Rationale for the Police Leadership Campaign

The Police Leadership Campaign was developed in response to rising crime and the series of poor appointments in key police leadership positions. The campaign has the following demand:

A transparent selection process that solicits public participation and is set against clear merit-based criteria, as recommended in the National Development Plan (NDP), in the appointment of the SAPS National Commissioner and the Head of the Hawks.

The Police Leadership Campaign’s 10-point Guide for the Appointment Process

The Police Leadership campaign lays out a 10-point guide for selecting the SAPS National Commissioner and the Head of the Hawks.

  1. A police leadership selection panel should be established by the minister of police on the advice and with the support of the Civilian Secretariat of Police and the parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Police. The objective of the panel will be to undertake a transparent and merit-based recruitment process that results in a shortlist of the individuals most qualified to effectively lead the SAPS and the Hawks
  2. The panel should comprise of individuals who are able to impartially assess possible candidates against the agreed-upon criteria. The panel could therefore consist of: a) A retired police general who has served with distinction to assess knowledge of policing policy and practice;b) An expert in criminal law and the laws applicable to policing, to assess knowledge of the legal principles within which policing should operate; c) A representative from the Treasury to assess knowledge of the Public Finance Management Act and relevant regulations governing public sector procurement; d) A representative from the Public Service Commission to assess for knowledge of generic executive public administration prescripts, legislation, planning and reporting obligations; e) An expert in executive decision-making and ethics; and f) Any other individuals from civil society who possess the necessary expertise to assist in evaluating candidates against criteria developed by the panel.
  3. The first task of the panel will be to develop clear merit-based criteria for the post of SAPS National Commissioner and head of the Hawks. These criteria must be benchmarked internationally on the necessary skills, expertise, experience, integrity and characteristics required for effectively leading a professional police agency.
  4. The minister of police should, over a month-long period, publicly advertise the posts for the SAPS national commissioner and head of the Hawks and present the responsibilities and functions of each post along with the minimum criteria required to be shortlisted.
  5. The Civilian Secretariat should receive applications and supply the panel with a shortlist of candidates who meet the minimum criteria. To be shortlisted the candidates must not only possess the necessary expertise, experience and qualifications, but must first be vetted for top security clearance and subject to a psychological evaluation.
  6. The panel must then interview the short-listed candidates in public against the criteria. The panel should also be able to receive submissions from the public on the shortlisted candidates.
  7. The panel must provide scores for each of the shortlisted candidates against the key criteria weighted by the most important functions of the post and assessments of integrity.
  8. The panel should agree on a short list of no more than five candidates for each post, comprising those who achieved the highest scores from the assessment processes.
  9. The short list of appropriate candidates for the post of SAPS national commissioner will then be presented to the president who in terms of his constitutional mandate will appoint the new commissioner.
  10. The short list of appropriate candidates for the post of head of the Hawks will be presented to the minister of police to make the appointment.

*Read more in the Police Leadership Campaign's Brochure: Unwanted Police Commissioners

How we do it

Three core objectives/ principles have informed the Police Leadership campaign strategies, namely: a) awareness-raising; b) public engagement; and c) participation and enhancing transparency.


The Police Leadership public awareness campaign sought to increase awareness among the general public concerning the role of the SAPS National Commissioner and the Head of the Hawks, their functions and responsibilities and the desired process of appointing individuals to these key institutions.

Public Engagement and Participation

A survey, titled ‘South African Top Cops Survey’ was developed as part of the campaign strategy to increase public engagement and participation. The survey allows people, including police officials and the general public, to give their inputs as to the qualities which they would like to see in the SAPS National Commissioner and Head of the Hawks. 

South African Top Cop Survey

Which qualities would you like to see in SA’s next police chief? Take the survey today by clicking here.


Enhance Transparency  ​

The third objective of the campaign was to call for a transparent process to be employed in the appointment of the Head of Hawks and the National Police Commissioner. In addition, the campaign has highlighted the need for the appointment process to be competitive and merit-based, as outlined in the NDP.

What we have learned

Poor police leadership has reversed the positive gains made since 1994 – it has costs lives, undermined public safety and enabled corruption to flourish. The Police Commissioner and Head of the Hawks are likely to hold these positions for the next five years. Good leaders have the potential to hugely improve the safety of those in South Africa.  Comparatively, inadequate leaders are likely to exacerbate the decline in public safety and effective policing.

*Information for this project profile was largely drawn from the following articles:

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