PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma yesterday appointed another one of his loyalists from KwaZulu-Natal as part of the top structure of the government security cluster.
Former KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele is the new national police commissioner.
Cele has vowed to come down hard on criminals, using all legal force necessary to curb South Africa's high crime levels.
"You can't be soft and you can't be moving around kissing crime. You need to be tough," he said yesterday after his appointment at the presidential guest house in Pretoria.
Asked if his "cowboy" and "abrasive" attitude would follow him into his new position, he said: "Well, cowboys don't cry. Definitely, we will just fight crime. Abrasive? I'm not sure. If that's the case . I don't think that's a problem."
Cele succeeds former national commissioner Jackie Selebi, whose contract ends tomorrow. Selebi has been on special leave after being charged with corruption.
Cele joins Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Intelligence Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, and Hlengiwe Mkhize, the Deputy Minister of Correctional sServices - all known Zuma loyalists from KwaZulu-Natal - in the security cluster.
Known for his tough talk, Cele yesterday rose to the occasion and promised to be tough on criminals.
He advised police to use "deadly force" when they are being attacked by the criminals. Cele said the law allowed police to fight back when under attack.
He had in the past come under fire for encouraging the police to "shoot to kill".
Yesterday Johan Kruger, a security expert from the Institute of Security Studies, said the Criminal Procedure Act needed to be revisited because police can use their firearms only when confronted by criminals.
"If criminals walk away there is nothing the police can do. I believe the police should be allowed to use firearms indiscriminately," Kruger said.
Zuma supported Cele, calling for tough action against cop killers. He said cop killers were striking at the heart of the state and should be dealt with harshly.
"We would like to warn criminals who take chances and attack police officials that they are hitting at the heart of the state and we will respond vigorously."
Zuma said Cele had succeeded in fighting cash-in-transit heists in KwaZulu-Natal.
"Since his appointment as MEC for transport, community safety and liaison, Cele has distinguished himself in a number of areas.
"These include finding solutions to the taxi conflicts in the province, leading successful anti-crime campaigns as well as promoting road safety on provincial roads and highways."
The president also promised that his government would increase the number of police officers from 180000 to more than 200000 within three years.
Cele played a pivotal role in Zuma's campaign to unseat former ANC president Thabo Mbeki in the run-up to the party's watershed elective conference in Polokwane in 2007.
He is credited by Zuma's backers for using his position as the then chairperson of the powerful eThekwini region of the ANC to campaign for Zuma.