The allegations levelled against the national police commissioner and head of Interpol Jackie Selebi, reported in Sunday Times and denied by him, are serious.
The paper reported that the inner workings of a Mafia-style criminal organisation allegedly involving senior policemen had been revealed in a 144-page dossier containing affidavits by witnesses.
The dossier, which forms part of an investigation by Scorpions, makes reference to Selebi, his "friend" and known underworld figure Glen Agliotti, and Clint Nassif, owner of a security company employed by late mining magnate Brett Kebble.
Issuing a blanket denial of the allegations, as Selebi did at the weekend, might not be enough. There must be a formal inquiry into the matter to clear the air once and for all.
This is imperative because the dossier has cast a cloud over the integrity of the commissioner's office as well as created doubt in the eyes of the public about Selebi's suitability as head of the crime-fighting machinery in the country.
The docket might have triggered a crisis of credibility in the upper echelons of the police force that leaves Selebi with fewer options than to temporarily step down until the air has been cleared.