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Speech by Mr Steve Tshwete, Minister for Safety and Security, at the handing over of command of the South African Police Service parade on 13 January 2000

Deputy National Commissioner Morgan Chetty and Director Chetty - our hosts this morning

National Commissioner Jackie Selebi and Mrs Selebi

Commissioner George Fivaz and Mrs Fivaz

Mr Meyer Kahn and Mrs Kahn

Honourable Guests

Members on Parade

Ladies and Gentleman

This is a great moment in the history of the South African Police Service in particular and in the people of our country in general. For the first time ever since its establishment in 1913, the national command of the Service is today handed over to a black commissioner. Elsewhere in the world an event marking the transfer of a command might have just passed like any other routine ceremony. But in our country which has been bedevilled by a history of colonial domination and racial oppression for many decades, a function like this one cannot just be routine. It is, on the contrary, a beacon - indeed a landmark that elevates itself above the ordinary.

We gather here this morning to celebrate the historic gesture and, with the rest of the nation, to affirm that our country is indeed on course. I want to take this opportunity to applaud all our officers for their readiness to accept this lateral black appointment into a command position which has been regarded as an exclusive preserve of white males who had risen through the ranks.

For me, and I am sure all of you agree with me, the handing over from Commissioner George Fivaz to National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, is an eloquent statement that the South African Police Service has come of age. It has embraced change and transformation without any equivocation and thus pushed to the fore the unity of an institution on which millions of all South Africans pin their hopes for the delivery of their safety and security. Without this unity across the colour line and in the absence of a clear understanding that we are a family of brothers and sisters, there is absolutely no way we can bring down the levels of crime in our country and the region as a whole.

I am proud to say that the biggest majority of members in the South African Police Service at all levels are sensitive to all these issues. They are dedicated to the provision of a service that is professional, legitimate and incorruptible. They know very well that unity, transformation and change are to the Service what water is to fish.

But we also need to make the point abundantly clear that, whilst we acknowledge the non-negotiable status of transformation, we are talking not of an event but a process that must be handled carefully and responsibly. If we become excitable and reckless we shall fall flat on our faces, very much to the amusement of those criminal thugs who are prowling everywhere to rob and rape. I have no doubt at all in my mind that under the stewardship of the new National Commissioner and his colleagues transformation and change will always be handled so sensitively that all members can, at the end of the day, claim the process as theirs and not just a management issue.

Once again congratulations, National Commissioner.

The retired Commissioner, in his five years in office, lay a solid foundation on which you must build. Guided by a deep-seated commitment to our new democracy and intense love for this country and its people he supervised, under very difficult circumstances, the process of the amalgamation of the eleven policing agencies that were created by the past regime. That today we are able to boast of a single law enforcement agency in this country is, to large measure, because we had that honest, unassuming George Fivaz in the driving seat on a bumpy road full of potholes and all sorts of obstacles. Thank you Commissioner!

He did not end there. He went further to become a cog in a big machine that introduced the South African Police Service to the cultivation of the culture of human rights. This was not an easy task, given the background from which all the amalgamated police agencies have emerged. He did, once again, an excellent job. Today the South African Police Service is an active participant in this process of teaching a culture that had been a strange animal to most of its officers for a long time!

Over and above this huge task he also had the responsibility of managing a delicate situation of harmonizing relationships between the South African Police Service and the Safety and Security Secretariat. Even though there might still be tensions here and there, the peaceful co-existence of the two entities is a reality partly because of his style of leadership at the head of the South African Police Service. The list of what he has done to build this service within just five years in a completely new environment is a long one and will include how he introduced me to the lie of the land when I took over as Minister six months ago. Once again, thank you Commissioner!

Your sterling job was, of course, reinforced by yet another outstanding South African in the person of Meyer Kahn. There are very few, if any, leaders of prominent and thriving business who would agree to leave their boardrooms in favour of serving for two and a half years in a service that many South Africans, particularly the learned, still regard as a Cinderella profession.

Yours, Mr Kahn, was a study in selflessness! The contribution you made towards the restructuring of the Service and the management of the budget, the way you related to the ordinary police officer and your sense of appreciation of what these courageous South Africans are doing to guarantee our safety and security, including the generous gesture of investing your two years' salary in the SAPS Widow and Orphans Fund, will always be remembered fondly by all of us in the Safety and Security Department. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your very constructive association with the South African Police Service. I would also like to request you to convey our very profound thanks to the South African Breweries for their readiness to lend you to us and even to agree when we asked them to extend your stay with us.

I know that we will always be able to count on your support and that of Commissioner George Fivaz long after you have left us.

I am sure you are leaving knowing that your sojourn with us was worth the while. The South African Police Service and its colleague, the Scorpions, are growing by the day. You don’t have to look far to verify what I am saying. Our major crime-prevention and crime-combating operations before, during and after the festive season make it abundantly clear that we are beginning to be an effective cutting edge. With the back-up of our other colleagues in the South African National Defence Force we were able to ensure that all our people enjoyed their holiday in relative calm.

It is our intention to improve pretty speedily to ensure that the lives of criminals, particularly rapists and armed bandits, remain miserable. They must know no joy in their dens, in the police holding cells and prisons. The criminals and their friends, including those armed bandits and pipe bombers in the Western Cape must soon know that the South African state possesses the authority - morally and politically - to ensure, by all means at its disposal, that the people of this country are not deprived of their human rights in any way. It is not the intention of the state now or in future to surrender this moral and political authority to anybody, or institution or organization.

Those who are ripping off people’s limbs in Cape Town with their pipe bombs, those who rob and rape and abuse women and children must know that they themselves, and nobody else, have already relegated their status to that of sub-humans.

I thank you.

It gives me great pleasure to present Commissioner Fivaz with a certificate of commendation for his contribution as the first National Commissioner of the South African Police Service.