'Hero or a villain? Selebi was both'

2015-01-24 07:34
(File, Sapa)

(File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Each day he arrived at court with a small cushion on which he would sit on the hard, wooden bench for the accused.

“Pavarotti in Africa” was embroidered on the cushion. In bright yellow on black.

Jackie Selebi was never at ease being “accused number one”. He enjoyed authority and stature.

But, as the court days passed by in court room 4B of the High Court in Johannesburg, it became clear that he had been trapped by his own smartness.

A clear picture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing started to emerge.

Highest sport

Even on judgment day,  when Judge Meyer Joffe described Selebi as a lying witness, and a disgrace for society, Pavarotti was there. A symbol of days long gone.

Selebi’s legacy is not a simple matter. It is a complex narrative of someone who reached the highest sport and sunk to the lowest depths.

As a former history teacher in the 70’s in Soweto, Selebi was known as tumpi mampumpane – the dancing doughnut – because of the way he waddled.

He sported an Afro, and wore tight jackets and Florsheim boots.

Selebi joined his pupils for a smoke and took them on – longer than planned – outings.

He was the young political activist, who received military training in Russia. Selebi and his family came back to South Africa in 1991.

After a few months as a back bencher in parliament, Selebi, ironically, replaced Allan Boesak as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations. 

Selebi impressed and played a significant role in the abolishment of anti-personnel landmines. In 1998 he was appointed as director general of foreign affairs, where he flourished.

A year later, former president Thabo Mbeki moved him to the police. During his corruption trial Selebi testified that he never wanted to go to the police.

Lavish lifestyle

His legacy at the police was one of destruction. He was out of his depth and dissolved specialist units like the successful Child Protection and the Anti-Corruption Units.

The damage he caused by these action still reverberates through the SAPS.

Selebi received his first bribe, which was contained in a brown envelope, in June 2004 from drug-dealer Glenn Agliotti. Four months later he was appointed as Interpol’s president.

Selebi’s monthly salary of R30 000 wasn’t enough to maintain his lavish lifestyle. Hugo Boss, Aigner, Polo and Canali became his new best friends. Dirty money paid for it.

Mbeki defended Selebi right to the end and in the process destroyed Vusi Pikoli’s career.

We dare not remember Selebi as only a hero or a villain. He was both.

  •         Basson is editor of Beeld and author of Finish & Klaar: Selebi’s Fall from Interpol to the Underworld (Tafelberg)





Read more on:    jackie selebi  |  johannesburg

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