Selebi will report to prison, even if sick
Nalini Naidoo, Philip de Bruin
Johannesburg - Jackie Selebi will report to correctional services in Johannesburg to start serving his 15-year prison sentence on Monday.
Selebi’s lawyer, Wynanda Coetzee, said on Friday that he will report, “even if he’s seriously sick in hospital … even if he has to be transferred to the prison hospital’’.
The disgraced former police commissioner collapsed at his home after hearing, on television, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) confirm his corruption conviction.
Selebi was admitted to a Pretoria hospital, where he is in a stable condition, said Coetzee. He has been ill for some time.
Analyst Sipho Seepe said he may have collapsed because he had not faced up the reality of how damning the evidence was against him, and so had not prepared himself for the possibility of going to jail.
Selebi was found guilty of corruption in July last year for receiving benefits from convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail.
His appeal against his conviction failed on Friday when all five judges on the appeals bench unanimously upheld his conviction.
Garreth Newman of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said such a unanimous decision is unusual, and that one or two judges often have dissenting view.
“In this case their ruling was unanimous, confirming his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
SCA Judge Kenneth Mthiyane said the court found the annotations “cash JS”, “A”, “cash cop”, and “cash chief” on cheque counterfoils referred to Selebi. They rejected the submission that the cheques were for an ill policeman Agliotti was helping to support.
“This court also accepted that the words ‘cop’, c-o-p and ‘JS’ referred to the appellant,” said Mthiyane.
“On all the evidence contained in 66 volumes amounting to more than 600 pages that we had to wade through in this application for appeal, we are satisfied that the high court was correct in finding that the applicant did receive payment from Agliotti,” he added.
Selebi received payment from Agliotti on four occasions. These include payments of R110 000, R30 000 and R10 000, as well as an unspecified amount of US dollars.
NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the State never had any doubt the judgment would be in the its favour. “We had a very strong case and argument.”
Analyst Mary de Haas called Selebi an excessively foolish man who fell into a trap that was set for him.
“I don’t think he is a bad person, but you have to ask why was he convicted and not Agliotti. He was asking for trouble getting involved with the likes Agliotti. He should have known better.”
With Selebi in hospital questions are being raised whether the country will see a scenario similar to that of paroled fraudster Schabir Shaik, who spent most of his jail time in hospital.
Mhaga said that even if Selebi tries to take the matter further, the State will oppose the move.
Trade union federation Cosatu said Selebi’s time in jail will remind corrupt people that crime does not pay. It is regrettable that a man with an impeccable record in the struggle against apartheid is going to spend 15 years in prison “for accepting R166 000, a small sum compared to the amounts others are looting from the state through tenderpreneurship activities”, Cosatu said.
“Nevertheless, in Cosatu’s view, corruption is as bad as apartheid was. Both are based on marginalising the poor, most of whom are black in general and Africans in particular,” the union federation said.
DA spokesperson on police Dianne Kohler Barnard said she will write to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to find out what he will do to recover the R17.4m that the state spent on Selebi’s defence.
A justice department spokesperson said they will meet Selebi’s lawyers to discuss repayment options.
Asked what would happen if Selebi could not pay back the money, the department’s Tlali Tlali said, “We will follow normal debt recovery processes.”
Newman of the ISS said the Selebi verdict shows that South Africa’s criminal justice system is strong enough to prosecute powerful people. “Former president Thabo Mbeki did everything in his power to protect Selebi. He went as far as firing the former national director of public prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli.
“Despite this political interference, the criminal justice system prevailed,” Newman said.