Opposition parties welcome Selebi sentence

2010-08-03 13:58

Opposition parties have welcomed the 15-year jail sentence handed down to former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi today.

Selebi was found guilty on charges of corruption for accepting money from convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti while he was the chief of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and president of Interpol.

During investigations into Agliotti, Selebi called him his “friend, finish and klaar”.

While all parties welcomed the sentence, with the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) saying the sentence was a “rare instance of justice”, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) said the case would never have ended in a successful prosecution had the SAPS investigated it.

ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe said: “In light of attempts by the SAPS to intimidate the prosecutor, Advocate Gerrie Nel, it is unlikely that this case would have been successfully investigated had it been left to the SAPS.”

Nel was head of the investigating team of the now disbanded anti-corruption unit, the Scorpions. The unit was closed down in 2008.

Meshoe said: “This sentence is thus justified even though he [Selebi] is in his sixties.”

In the same vein, AfriForum praised the disbanded Scorpions unit for their role in bringing the former police commissioner to justice.

They said, however, future corruption cases were at stake under a police-led investigation unit, the Hawks, which had taken over all the Scorpions’ cases since its disbandment.

AfriForum community safety head Nantes Kelder said: “It could be more difficult to prosecute senior police officials on corruption charges in future owing to the replacement of the [independent] Scorpions with the newly founded Hawks unit, which falls under the direct command and control of the SAPS.

“The Hawks have done excellent work so far, but there is a need for an investigating unit that is not controlled directly by the SAPS.”

The IFP said Selebi’s sentence was too lenient and that he deserved a longer jail term.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) spokesperson Velaphi Ndlovu said: “We believe that Mr Selebi’s sentence is too lenient and he deserved a lengthier jail term. He was not only an embarrassment to the SAPS but to the country’s image abroad because of his involvement with Interpol.”

Ndlovu said that Selebi’s actions had tarnished the police force’s image and diminished the public’s respect and confidence in the SAPS.

Most other parties agreed with this, with Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille saying the sentence sent out a strong message that South African courts would not hesitate to deliver justice in corruption cases.

She said: “I agree with Judge Joffe that Selebi is an embarrassment to the court, South Africa, the South African Police Service and the government that appointed him.”

DA spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard said the sentence brought to an end one of the most controversial trials in South Africa.

She said: “Controversial because of the numerous obstacles placed in the way of due process and the law in trying to bring this criminal to book and controversial because we as a country are almost completely unfamiliar with the idea of a corrupt official, connected to the ANC, actually going to prison.”

Kohler-Barnard said the government should think about the integrity of a police structure that was for years led by an individual who today “joined the ranks of the very criminals from which the police were supposed to protect society”.

“The reason was cadre deployment and cadre deployment alone, and that ANC-driven policy needs to be scrapped,” Kohler-Barnard said.

The IFP said the sentence would show that corruption would not be tolerated, and that no one is above the law:

“The IFP sincerely hopes that Mr Selebi will serve his time in a prison cell and not in a private hospital room,” said Ndlovu, referring to convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, who was let out on medical parole in March last year, two years and four months into his 15-year jail sentence for corruption.

Shaik was convicted for deals made relating to the country’s controversial arms deal in 2004.

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