Selebi was no villain – Mbeki

2015-02-01 17:00

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Jackie Selebi was not a villain: he was “a hero” and an “outstanding revolutionary”, says former president Thabo Mbeki.

Selebi was laid to rest yesterday at the Pretoria East Cemetery after a service in Moreleta Park’s Dutch Reformed Church – and Mbeki’s was one of several glowing tributes that explored the former top cop’s legacy.

Selebi died last Friday due to kidney failure. He was controversially released in 2012 on medical parole because of this illness. He had served only 229 days of his 15-year prison sentence.

Mbeki did not shy away from talking about Selebi’s downfall – he was convicted of corruption in 2010 after being forced to quit both his local position as national police commissioner and his role as the head of Interpol.

In a tribute read out to hundreds of mourners by Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, who had been a close friend of Selebi’s, the former president suggested Selebi would be unhappy about the current state of South Africa and the governing party.

“I am certain that many throughout our country are deeply concerned that not all is well with both organisations which Jackie served faithfully for many decades – the ANC and the democratic state he sought to build as a member of Parliament, a diplomat and an accounting officer in our national departments,” Mbeki’s tribute read.

“It is exactly these circumstances that have made many of us mourn the untimely departure of Jackie Selebi.”

The funeral was attended by political heavyweights, including another former president, Kgalema Motlanthe, and his wife Gugu Mtshali; Justice Minister Michael Masutha; Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana; struggle stalwarts Ruth Mompati and Gertrude Shope; former defence force general Siphiwe Nyanda; former director-general of the presidency Reverend Frank Chikane; and Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile.

Former Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble, who served with Selebi during his tenure as the organisation’s president, described the 64-year-old as a powerful negotiator who had convinced the United Nations not to move its conference to another city immediately after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and other parts of the US.

Noble said Selebi had told UN leaders not to bow to terrorists and go ahead with the meeting after the UN approached Interpol for advice about whether to hold the meeting somewhere else.

Moving stories were told about how Selebi – a former history and geography teacher in Soweto and a leader of the ANC Youth League in exile – loved to tell jokes and was the best person to get consensus in any environment.

Many mourners recounted his contribution as a teacher during the 1976 Soweto student uprisings, while many asked Selebi’s detractors, who questioned his release from prison on medical grounds, to admit they were wrong about the state of his health.

Selebi’s brother, Al Haj Morapedi Sulaiman Selebi, rebuked the media for the manner in which it had treated his brother during his trial. Selebi is survived by his wife Anne and sons Elton and Clifford.

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