Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela has apologised for making light of rape in prison on Twitter.
But it may not be enough to placate those who do not appreciate his particular style and want him removed.
“My tweet about JubJub on Tuesday nite was in poor taste. I profoundly regret posting & hereby retract it. Je suis desole. [I’m sorry],” Polela tweeted on Thursday, after spending nearly a day defending his initial comment.
A storm of controversy broke this week over his comment on Tuesday afternoon – 15 words on a case unrelated to the Hawks.
“I trust that JubJub’s supporters gave him a jar of Vaseline to take to prison,” Polela told his Twitter followers shortly after the music star was found guilty of murder and denied bail.
Polela has previously attracted a fair share of criticism. Among his tweets in the past month were:
- “Zuma knows nothing. The illiterate Jacob Zuma – Julius Malema.”
- “Had a strange dream. Greetings & handshake with Mugabe. Scrubbed my hands when I woke up – in case Bob’s zombie visited in my sleep.”
Polela also tends to bait opponents who criticise him or the Hawks, leading to what can be lengthy exchanges.
“My publicist says I should stop engaging u,” he told one, after a particularly long sparring session.
But with public interest in the fate of Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye peaking on Tuesday when judgment was delivered, his Vaseline tweet went viral and condemnation came thick and fast.
The most stentorian voice was that of the Detention Justice Forum, which includes the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Sonke Gender Justice and Section27, which described the tweet as “irresponsible and disturbing.
It endorses deeply destructive ideas about manhood and prisoners, which feature in so much of the violence gripping our society and only lead to further harm and pain,” the forum said in a statement.
“As an acknowledged victim of violence himself, we call on Mr Polela to be more careful that his pronouncements do not exacerbate the scourge of violence.
“And as a spokesman for the Hawks, a unit tasked with upholding the law and the Constitution of South Africa, it is inappropriate and disappointing for him to condone violent crime or make light of it, even on a personal Twitter account.”
Some have found Polela’s shoot-from-the-hip style too reminiscent of the attitude adopted by the former Scorpions. Before former police commissioner Bheki Cele was removed from office, he indicated that he was not happy with Polela’s work and was considering moving him to a less prominent post or sending him for further training, possibly in policing.
Cele was uncomfortable with Polela’s bravado and how he focused on the individuals being investigated.
“He came across as trying to convince the public that a person who is being investigated is damned,” Cele said.
Polela and the Hawks were not available for comment, but his tweet has raised concerns that, as an official of the government security apparatus, even if it was made in his private capacity, it could be used by people such as Shrien Dewani, who has previously argued against extradition to South Africa on the basis that conditions in its prisons are unsafe.