CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ In a bid to defuse tension within the racially divided police force, the Cabinet Wednesday appointed a top black civil servant to become national police commissioner next year.

Jackie Selebi, South Africa's former permanent representative to the United Nations and the present director-general of the foreign affairs department, will succeed Commissioner George Fivaz, whose contract ends in January.

Making the announcement, Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete said Selebi's appointment would help motivate black police officers, who felt that the force was still being controlled by whites and that they were being overlooked for promotion.

``There has been a great deal of disaffection in the police services. It was mainly divisions along racial lines,'' he said.

Selebi, 49, is highly thought of in diplomatic circles and regarded as one of the most effective civil servants to serve under the post-apartheid government, but has no experience in law enforcement.

He must now tackle one of the highest crime rates in the world with a police force ill-equipped to do the job.

Prior to 1994, many policemen were trained to enforce apartheid rather than fight crime. Transforming the police force has been a slow process and white officers who served under the old regime, including Fivaz, have retained many of the senior positions.

Thousands of policemen are illiterate and have no drivers' licenses, while police stations remain under-equipped.