The subject, it must be admitted, was of an extremely serious nature; the minister of police threatening to have former Hawks boss Lieutenant-General Berning Ntlemeza arrested unless a “stolen” state vehicle and cellphone were returned by Monday afternoon.
An unrepentant Ntlemeza had turned up for work at Silverton, in Pretoria, with the intention of resuming his duties as head of Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (DCPI), despite being relieved of these duties by the North Gauteng High Court, and signed out a state vehicle.
It was enough to send Fikile Mbalula ballistic and generate a vintage rant from the former minister of sport in one of his first high-profile appearances under his new portfolio.
“He ordered the head of the supply chain to give him a car in which he is roaming around in the streets of Pretoria, or wherever he is this afternoon,” was the opening barb Mbalula launched at Ntlemeza.
There was more in a similar vein.
“To come here and issue instructions to the staff is illegal,” Mbalula said, ripping another slice off the discredited policeman.
“And the fact that anyone could be doing that is political,” was Mbalula’s read on things, also accusing the general of showing him the middle finger, telling him he was useless, and barging into a management meeting at the Hawks’ offices.
The vehicle was returned, but Ntlemeza’s cellphone, iPad, bulletproof vest and firearm remained in his possession as he intends appealing the Supreme Court ruling and continues to insist he is still in charge – despite the minister naming Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata as a replacement.
It is a chaotic and charged situation and one which, if allowed to continue, can even further damage public perceptions of the abilities of the police to maintain order.
The phrase Keystone Cops spring to mind.