A SENIOR City of Cape Town official has claimed that the police were reluctant to handcuff Jackson Mthembu, the ANC national spokesperson, when he was arrested for allegedly driving drunk in the city yesterday.
Jean-Pierre Smith, a member of the safety and security mayoral committee, said the officers were intimidated when they realised that Mthembu was a high-ranking ANC official.
Mthembu was nabbed by Cape Town's "Ghost Squad" yesterday on the N2 highway's lane reserved for buses.
Smith said a constable at the station did not want to process Mthembu's case because he was a senior ANC member.
The "Ghost Squad" members then took him to the Safely Home Anti Drunk-driving Operations War Room in Athlone.
"The law should not protect politicians," said Smith.
Cape Town's head of traffic services, Chief Inspector Merle Lourens said: "The Ghost Squad arrested Mthembu on a charge of alleged drunk driving in the lane reserved for buses.
"He was tested for alcohol and was found to be more than three times over the legal limit. He tested 0,87mg while the legal limit is 0,24mg (milligrams of alcohol per 1000 millilitres of breath)."
Mthembu has been charged with drunken driving - and released on R500 bail. He will be back in court in two weeks' time.
Former ANC provincial chairperson Mcebisi Skwatsha and fellow ANC MP Koleka Mqulwana arrived at the police station shortly after Mthembu was arrested. They left the station at about midday.
Mqulwana then drove Mthembu's rental car - a gold Audi 1.8T - from the police station. A few minutes later he was followed by Mthembu and Skwatsha in a silver Jaguar.
A sombre Mthembu came over to greet journalists, saying: " I'm fine, I was well treated by the police."
He said he would appear in the Wynberg magistrate's court on March 24.
"They suspected I was drunk. I have my own reservations. The matter is sub judice," he said, adding that he would cooperate with the police investigation.
As he turned to leave, Mthembu said to journalists: "I don't look drunk, do I?"
Yesterday was not the first time Mthembu was arrested for a traffic violation. In 1999 he smashed a Mpumalanga government car in Witbank. He was driving without a valid licence. At the time he was chairperson of the portfolio committee on transport.
He was ordered to pay the state R29600 for the Mercedes-Benz that was written off.
Political parties condemned Mthembu's behaviour yesterday.
Cope MP Leonard Ramatlalakane questioned why Mthembu was granted bail.
"We are concerned that he got bail in the police station because if a person is three times over the legal alcohol limit he should go straight to a jail cell. The ruling party should take action since he sets a bad example for the Arrive Alive campaign."
Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said they had no comment, "but the law has to take its course".
ID secretary general Haniff Hoosen said it was typical of ANC leaders to act reckless.
"I think it is safe to say that Mthembu has today earned his ANC stripes."