Brazen criminals cocked a snook at KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Safety and Security Bheki Cele when they broke into his house at the weekend.
The burglary of the home of a high-profile KwaZulu-Natal politician has heightened calls for the government to tackle rampant crime once and for all.
Cele, who is also ANC chairman for the eThekwini region, was recently in the news following suggestions that he has ambitions of becoming the province's next premier in 2009.
Reports also claimed Cele was instrumental in renaming the planned R1,6billion King Senzangakhona soccer stadium after late ANC stalwart Moses Mabhida.
It is not clear where the rest of his family was at the time of the burglary. Cele was away in Stanger attending an ANC regional meeting at the time.
He yesterday told reporters the burglars had gained entry through the front door. It is not known whether VIP guards were on duty at the time.
Cele said he was not sure about the value of the stolen goods, that included a TV set, laptop, music system and personal items.
Commenting on crime, Cele said, "We need to deal with it. I have been saying this all along."
Police spokesman Phindile Hadebe said they were working around the clock to find those responsible.
Opposition leaders said the incident was an indication thatthe government came off second best when trying to deal with criminals.
National Democratic Convention leader Hawu Mbatha said the daring buglary was a clear indication that "we were losing the fight against crime".
He said the government was failing to protect its citizens and their property.
"The extent of rampant crime in our country is alarming. Indeed, we have a huge problem. We are losing this battle and until those responsible for safety and security come up with a better strategy, we will not win this war," said Mbatha.
United Democratic Movement's Bongani Msomi said: "If it happens to the MEC's house, what does it say to an ordinary citizen who cannot afford security guards? What message does this send about our country? People have been complaining about escalating crime, but the government has been in denial."
Mntomuhle Khawula of the IFP said: "When ordinary people shout that crime was escalating, they are not doing it for political gain. It is a reality.
"While we feel sorry for the MEC about what has happened to him, it's what ordinary people all over the country are subjected to daily."
Khawula said that had Cele entered his house while the criminals were still inside, someone could have died.
"Something needs to be done about this, otherwise we are heading for disaster," he said.
The Democratic Alliance's Rodger Burrows said his party had been complaining about crime for a long time, but its pleas had "fallen on deaf ears".
Burrows said he was hoping now that the ruling party would intensify campaigns to combat crime.
"This is a clear indication that the war against crime will never be won in this country unless drastic measures are taken," he said.
Jo-Anne Downs of the African Christian Democratic Party said: "Basically, I'm sorry for everybody who is the victim of crime.
"But hopefully now the ANC will start taking the issue of crime more seriously than it has done to date," said Downs.