So, since when did our national police commissioner become a firefighter? In a country with chronic crime levels, you’d think Commissioner Riah Phiyega had more pressing matters to deal with this week. After all, crime spikes before Christmas and syndicates make a killing. Law enforcement is needed on the roads when the Christmas rush turns our highways and byways into killing fields. Would she not have been better deployed on a major arterial road or on patrol, showing her power as South Africa’s first black female commissioner? Would this not have been a better way to build confidence in our police service? After all, it has been a battering year: the Marikana Commission of Inquiry showed Phiyega up as ill-informed and uncaring; her crime intelligence service is wracked with corruption and at war with her; she appointed a cop with a criminal record to head Gauteng, the epicentre of crime, then she fired him within six hours because nobody had checked his record. Instead of doing real police work this week, Commissioner Phiyega fronted a press conference of the Cabinet security cluster and the Public Works ministry to explain, among other things, how the presidential swimming pool is in fact a pool to fight fire. “In the rural areas, you take a bucket and you fill it with water, then you run to the fire and throw the water over the flames to douse them.” #Facepalm, as they say on Twitter, a word signalling embarrassment. Police and soldiers should not be used to do the dirty work of the state. It is a politicisation that must be avoided because women in blue and men in brown work for us, the public, not for a political master. Vejay Ramlakan, the former surgeon-general, took up the other flak. On behalf of the defence force, he explained the renovation of Nkandla, saying high heels could not make it on the old paving. True story. Then he took the wrap for pimping the presidential estate under the guise of “operational needs” valued at R135 million. It was painful to watch. This is a man whose most recent task was caring for the end days of founding president Nelson Mandela as his lead doctor. It was a steep fall from grace and an embarrassment to the defence force. Our army is stretched by peacekeeping and peacemaking missions across the continent. Its skills levels are low. There is deep work to do to keep us secure. Nkandla is a scandal for many reasons. The state should avoid adding reasons by prostituting the army and the police service.