Here come the men in hats – Lennit Max gushes about new boss Bheki Cele

2018-07-02 19:53

It's his second day as special advisor to Police Minister Bheki Cele, and Lennit Max can't stop gushing about how honoured and excited he is to fight crime with his new boss.

After resigning as a member of the Western Cape legislature on Saturday to take up a 12-month contract, Max wasted no time and held a press briefing on Monday to reveal more about his new role.

He previously served as a provincial police commissioner and after joining the DA, twice lost the battle to run the opposition party in the Western Cape – first to Patricia de Lille and then to Bonginkosi Madikizela.

Wearing a fedora hat similar to the one Cele usually wears, Max clarified on Monday that he was still a "fully-fledged member" of the DA and that he did not see a conflict of interest. 

Cele was not interested in his political affiliation, he said, but in the skills he could offer.

READ: Lennit Max appointed as Bheki Cele's special advisor

He said he was so proud to be associated with Cele, that the opposition party could use the "Patricia de Lille clause" to remove him if they were not happy with his appointment.

"I am not a member of the ANC - yet," he said to chuckles.

Max worked his way up 11 ranks in the police force between 1979 and 2003, but indicated he did not intend to dust off his blue uniform. Rather, he would be assisting behind the scenes.

"I am there to assist with strategy, thinking, to identify needs, make proposals [and] see if we can improve certain processes or strategies."

He described himself as an all-rounder.

He worked his way up from a poor upbringing in Bredasdorp, where he walked 30km to school and back every day.

In 1977, he joined the South African Railways as a labourer to repair, build and maintain railway lines, but his heart was set on fulfilling his childhood dream of being a man in blue.

He obtained a National Diploma in Police Science and a Master's Degree in Law before being admitted as an advocate in 2001.

Lennit Max resigned from the Western Cape legislature to take up a new role as Police Minister Bheki Cele's special advisor. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

In his last position as chairperson of culture and sport in the provincial legislature, Max felt he could no longer sit idle as a trained police officer, watching operas and visiting libraries and archives, while people were being killed on the Cape Flats.

He said he approached provincial and party leadership to offer his skills in the policing sector but was declined.

"This not only frustrated but angered me."

While he and Cele shared a penchant for fancy hats, Max said he loved that they were both "go-getters and result driven".

"He wears a hat and I wear a hat as well. I just make sure my hat is smaller than his one. That is the type of person I would love to work with, someone who is responsive to people's needs, who is serious, honest, who wants to build a police service that is credible and trustworthy."

Police Minister Bheki Cele at a press conference in Centurion. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

Their "synergy" was apparently already evident when they complemented each other with input at meetings as community safety MECs - him for the Western Cape and Cele for KwaZulu-Natal.

Max got a job offer after meeting Cele to share his vision for fighting crime.

"He said to me: 'No man, you have got ideas. Come and assist.' I said: 'Thuma Mina' (send me)."

Max wanted to focus on "rallying communities" to change passive attitudes and work with the police, especially gang violence and violence against women and children.

Another focus of his was farm killings and ensuring that areas such as Gugulethu, Nyanga, Delft and Mitchells Plain, received the best police service.

"In many instances, we have failed our communities and this must stop. Egos of individuals should not stand in the way of the safety of our people."

Deputy federal chairperson for the DA Ivan Meyer, said he would be releasing a statement on Max later on Monday.

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