Selebi issue creating tensions

2009-01-06 00:00

Cape Town — The ongoing saga relating to suspended national police commissioner Jackie Selebi looks set to create tensions between President Kgalema Motlanthe and Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa in the year ahead.

This week, Mthethwa called on Motlanthe to fire Selebi, but the president has made it clear he will only take action once a court of law rules on the charges that Selebi faces.

Selebi is on extended leave after being charged with crimes relating to his relationship with Glen Agliotti, the man accused of murdering business tycoon Brett Kebble. He has been replaced by acting Police Commissioner Tim Williams.

In a letter to Motlanthe, he called for Selebi to be fired, saying that South Africa needs stability in dealing with safety and security matters. “We need a permanent commissioner. So we’ve done the proposal; it’s the president who appoints the commissioner,” Mthethwa said.

Since being appointed in Motlanthe’s cabinet reshuffle last year, Mthethwa has indicated that he means business in the fight against crime, and that corrupt police officials will face the full might of the law.

Independent Democrats (ID) leader Patricia De Lille said yesterday that while the Selebi issue remains unresolved, South Africans are “forking out” millions to pay his salary.

“In the meantime, it appears that honest … citizens will have to accept that every time we go to a police station we will be greeted by a framed picture of the accused on the wall. Just a fraction of the enthusiasm the president used to get rid of former NPA head Vusi Pikoli would have saved us the trouble,” she said.

The Presidency declined to comment.

Amanda Dissel, manager of the criminal justice programme at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said it is crucial to have someone with a “spotless reputation” leading the police.

“There is no doubt that the perception of corruption spills over into the workings of the police force. It is very important for the police force to be led by an upstanding citizen without allegations against them, who can focus on doing what the police force is supposed to do.”

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