n Journal of Public Administration - Managing the South African Police Service

Volume 49, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The history of policing in many countries, including South Africa, seems to be littered with cases of "things going wrong", also referred to as "system failure". While the apartheid state gained notoriety for its repressive use of security forces, including the police, it seems that post-apartheid South Africa is not out of the woods yet. From Police Commissioners Jackie Selebi to Bheki Cele and from Bheki Cele to Riah Phiyega, experts on police have ceaselessly worried over one key problem during their term: how to control and manage the police who maintain that order. This is indeed a conundrum. Despite a glorified picture of crime statistics, the management of the South African Police Services remains a challenge. The police, unlike almost everyone else in South African society, are commissioned to use force, even deadly force. However, unlike other forces licensed to use force, such as prison warders and soldiers, police are not sequestered in prisons or on bases. Police do not operate in a group under close command and control, but are dispersed throughout society and over wide geographical spaces, both urban and rural. And as they patrol unsupervised, singly or in pairs, their power exposes them to mighty temptations. Police brutality is on the rise in South Africa. In the light of the current spate of this brutality, the management and leadership of the South African Police Service remain a challenge.

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