The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa has its first female national police chief, the president announced yesterday, after the previous chief was caught up in a financial mismanagement scandal and the one before that was jailed for corruption.

The appointment of Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega, who the governing African National Congress said is the first woman to hold the job, comes amid questions about whether capable officials are leading the fight against violent crime in South Africa. President Jacob Zuma, who suspended police chief Bheki Cele seven months ago, has been accused of acting too slowly to address public concerns about policing.

According to a report released in February, Cele failed to seek competitive bids when leasing police offices. Zuma said yesterday that he had fired Cele, a move that was rumored for days in the local media.

Cele's predecessor, Jackie Selebi, is serving a 15-year prison sentence after a corruption trial in which evidence showed he went on shopping sprees with a drug smuggler in exchange for information about police investigations.

Phiyega is chairwoman of a presidential committee appointed to review the viability and efficiency of state-owned companies, which include the company that runs the airline and other transportation services.

Zuma said "Phiyega brings a wealth of experience as a senior executive who understands the responsibility of government in the fight against crime and the duties imposed in dealing with state assets."

The main opposition party, the Demcratic Alliance, welcomed the firing of Cele, but expressed disappointment over the new appointment, saying Phi-yega lacks policing experience.

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