November 22, 2017 / 2:58 PM / a year ago

South Africa's Zuma appoints permanent police commissioner

FILE PHOTO: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma gestures during the last day of the six-day meeting of the African National Congress 5th National Policy Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, South Africa, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma appointed General Khehla Sitole as national police commissioner on Wednesday, filling the position on a permanent basis for the first time in nearly three years.

South Africa has been without a permanent head of police since Zuma suspended Riah Phiyega in 2015 pending an investigation into her role in the killing of 34 platinum miners by officers during a violent strike over pay in 2012.

South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, while burglary and car theft are common. Tackling violent crime is a top political priority for much of the public.

Zuma has been criticized by opposition parties and civil society for previously appointing civilians rather career police officers to the top posts in the service.

Sitole had “grown through the ranks of the police having joined the service as a constable until his promotion as a Lieutenant General in 2011,” Zuma’s office said in a statement.

“General Sitole brings a wealth of operational as well as management experience to the SA Police Service.”

Zuma appointed his third police minister in under three years in March, drawing further criticism that he has failed to build a stable team to tackle crime.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Joe Brock

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