As sports minister, Fikile Mbalula was better known as Razzmatazz than for bringing home any medals. As the new minister of police, he should guard against shooting his mouth off as he did at his police welcoming parade, when he told officers to "fight fire with fire" and "shoot back, don’t retreat".
That is precisely the sort of reckless bravado the Farlam inquiry into the Marikana massacre warned against.
The danger is that when politicians don’t understand what good policing entails, they latch onto populist rhetoric. They imply, as Bheki Cele did, that we can either have human rights or effective policing; not both. But as Farlam pointed out, acting outside the law contributes to bad policing and erodes public trust.
It is antics like this which create the impression Mbalula is a clown. He’ll need to work hard to change that view.
He should use his energy to rebuild trust in the police. First, he must accept that Berning Ntlemeza, a liar, is unsuitable to head the Hawks. Pick someone who can legitimately fight corruption. Second, choose a commissioner on the basis of operational experience. Third, end political interference in police work. There’s enough prima facie evidence to trigger a criminal probe of the Guptas and to have sacked Richard Mdluli six years ago. If he wants to prove he’s more than a compromised buffoon, he can start there.