Jackie Selebi: a dedicated comrade who lost his way

2015-01-23 11:45

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When Jackie Selebi became national police commissioner in 2000, it was the pinnacle of a professional and personal life dedicated to the ANC and its founding principles.

For four of his eight years in office, Selebi was also the president of Interpol.

But in 2008 everything came crashing down: Jacob Sello Selebi was placed on extended leave here at home and resigned as president of Interpol because he had been charged with corruption.

Today, as news broke that 64-year-old Selebi had died, most South Africans didn’t remember him as a committed ANC comrade, former MP and the country’s former most senior cop.

Instead, many will remember that Selebi had a taste for expensive suits and shoes and enjoyed a good friendship with a convicted drug lord named Glenn Agliotti.

People will also remember that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) issued a warrant of arrest for Selebi in late 2007, and then NPA head Vusi Pikoli was suspended – because powerful interests were protecting Selebi and trying to shield him from prosecution.

But in January 2008 Selebi was placed on an “extended leave of absence” by then President Thabo Mbeki. A month later, he appeared in court on charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice.

It was in 2010 that Selebi’s trial began in earnest – and that his reputation began to crumble.

Jackie Selebi during a 2010 court appearance.
Picture: Werner Beukes/Sapa

Agliotti testified in court that he had paid Selebi more than R1.2 million in bribes since 2000. This money, Agliotti testified, was handed over in envelopes.

“Initially I would pay from my own money. I would put it in an envelope. It was small amounts – R5 000, R10 000.”

In what would become some of the most damning testimony of all, Agliotti told of shopping sprees at upmarket Joburg clothing stores. Selebi did the shopping, and Agliotti footed the bill.

Selebi always denied the charges against him, but on 2 July 2010 he was found guilty of corruption. He was acquitted on charges of defeating the ends of justice.

Judge Meyer Joffe called Selebi a man who had shown “complete contempt for the truth” during the trial and a “person of low moral fibre”.

The following month he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His appeal was rejected in 2011 and in 2012 he was released on medical parole – after spending 229 days in Pretoria Central Prison’s medical wing.

There was a huge outcry, but the department of correctional services’ parole board said Selebi was in the end stages of renal failure. This had reached an irreversible state, the board said.

Renal failure means the kidneys do not work well enough for the sufferer to live without daily dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Before he was released, Selebi was being treated by Dr Anil Kurian, a senior registrar at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. He was shuttled back and forth between prison and the hospital three times a day for dialysis.

In October 2013 City Press reported that Selebi’s wife Anne had left her job so that she could take care of her husband around the clock. She took control of his dialysis treatment, administering it at 6am, noon, 6pm and 10pm every day.

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