One of the few things South Africans agree about is that the country has a serious problem with crime and policing.
Violent crime and sexual offences remain a scourge; there has been a spike in kidnappings and the country has been horrified by recent mass killings, the latest occurring at a Soweto tavern last weekend.
One would think this means the police ministry is a top priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Instead we have Bheki Cele, a flamboyant ex-police commissioner with a penchant for fedoras and little clue about the difference between being a political head and spearheading operations on the ground.
This minister’s propensity for shooting from the hip, aka talking nonsense to mask poor policing, has made him a national laughing stock.
His latest tomfoolery came in the wake of the Soweto massacre.
Promising more police recruits, Cele warned that people with tattoos could not join the SA Police Service because “when you have a tattoo, we don’t hire you because you have a tendency of being a gangster”.
The SA Police Union rightly slammed this remark as being designed to distract from core issues such as the lack of leadership and mismanagement in the police.
Social media, meanwhile, lit up with ripostes, and little wonder.
Cele must have been in Rip van Winkel land for the past few decades and missed that tattoos had become de rigueur as a body art fashion accessory.
But it is no laughing matter that the president is content for dinosaurs and biased buffoons to run our country, and there are plenty of both in his cabinet.
No matter how great the policing crisis, or how much Cele’s foolishness contributes to loss of confidence in government, the police minister is unlikely to be shown the door any time soon.
This has everything to do with ANC internal politics and Ramaphosa’s need to maintain support in Cele’s home province, KwaZulu-Natal, and nothing to do with the national interest.
And that is no joke at all.