Officer du Preez stopped and shouted at the black driver of the parked vehicle: ``Remove the bloody car!'' This being the new South Africa, the black man complained that there was no need for such rude behaviour, whereupon Officer du Preez warned him not to answer back. ``Who do you think you are? I'll hit you!'' he said.
The black man continued to remonstrate, which left the traffic officer - an Afrikaner evidently still trapped in the old apartheid ways - with no option but to grab the driver by the throat and pack him off to the police station.
It was only after he had been holding the man at the precinct for 20 minutes that Officer du Preez made an appalling discovery: his victim was none other than Sydney Mufamadi, the Minister of Police.
Mr Mufamadi, who said yesterday that he had laid charges of assault against the policeman, explained that he had gone out to buy some take-away food, and had double-parked for a moment while he went inside.
Mr Mufamadi, a former trade unionist, is a youthful looking 37 whose favoured mode of off-duty dress is blue jeans and black leather jacket. Officer Du Preez, despite having taken possession of Mr Mufamadi's passport with all his ministerial particulars, proved incapable of reconciling himself to the idea that a man this colour, this young and of this demeanour could possibly be who he said he was.
Officer du Preez will no doubt be spending the foreseeable future bent double in an attitude of abject despair. As for his immediate boss, the Pretoria traffic chief, Tienie van Rensburg, he volunteered the comforting thought that the lesson to be drawn from the incident was that the law treated everybody equally.