The standoff between Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and former Hawks boss Mthandazo Ntlemeza – which is expected to come to a head today – is only a symptom of the political quagmire that so often cripples our policing system.
Last week a second high court ordered that Ntlemeza’s 2015 appointment as head of the priority crimes directorate was unlawful and should be set aside.
Following this ruling, Mbalula abandoned a decision by his predecessor, Nathi Nhleko, to appeal an earlier order at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
Instead, the minister instructed Ntlemeza to vacate his office.
He also appointed one of Ntlemeza’s former deputies, Yolisa Matakata, as acting head of the Hawks.
Legally, Mbalula’s decision is correct and should be welcomed .
Politically, it is curious because Ntlemeza has for a lengthy period enjoyed the support of President Jacob Zuma.
Despite court rulings and an instruction from Mbalula, Ntlemeza remains defiant.
In an interview with the City Press last week, he claimed that the minister had misled the public and that as far as he was concerned, he was simply on leave and would report for duty today.
Ntlemeza also indicated his plans to lodge his own appeal at the SCA.
He believes that until the outcome of that case, he should be allowed to remain in office.
This despite the court order barring him from doing so.
Ntlemeza’s defiance in the face of an unwinnable legal battle comes as no surprise.
Once found by Pretoria High Court Judge Elias Matojane to be dishonest, lacking in integrity and dishonourable, Ntlemeza symbolises the rogue side of our law enforcement machinery.
His rise as a career policeman is one of seriously questionable political manoeuvring which has eroded the integrity of an office that is ought to be the very embodiment of the rule of law.
He epitomises the arrogance of those in the highest echelons of our policing system who continuously seek to turn our criminal justice system into their personal fiefdom. It is precisely for this reason that he cannot be allowed to remain in office.