The lessons of Selebi

2009-10-10 12:49

BEYOND the gripping drama of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi’s corruption case, which started this week, lie many lessons for all leaders, particularly those involved in the fight against crime.

Lesson 1: Don’t make friends with people in the underworld – they are sharks and not all have Italian surnames.

According to the testimony of Glenn Agliotti, the man ­Selebi once declared was his “friend, finish and klaar”, Selebi made friends with and associated with druglords and other shady people.

Agliotti is an alleged mafioso who ran drug- and other smuggling operations.

Lesson 2: The allegations against Selebi are not an aberration. Everyone who has bribed a traffic cop knows this.

Last week we revealed details of an Independent Complaints Directorate report that showed a significant growth in instances of police mal­feasance.

Once the law enforcement agencies are corrupted then the state is deemed to be criminalised. This impacts on the rule of law and eventually harms democracy, which becomes a kleptocracy.

Cops must be paid decently and then be subject to rigorous conflict of interest rules.

Lesson 3: Learn to live within your means. Wear Woolworths shoes if you have to and suits from Edgars. Fabiani, Gucci and Louis Vuitton can get you into trouble if you can’t afford them on your own buck.

According to the state, Selebi regularly told Agliotti he was short of cash, which the convicted drug dealer willingly provided. Why did Selebi, as alleged in court, want Agliotti to pay for his child’s medical bills of R1 200, buy clothes for Selebi himself, his wife, children and even for his secretary?

The habit of people living beyond their means has manifested itself in many others, including former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus and most recently publicity-loving couple Mandla Mthembu and his young wife, Khanyi Mbau. The couple opted to pay R100?000 a month for rent instead of buying their own house.

Lesson 4: In the weeks ahead, as the nation is being subjected to the dirty war that this case will involve, bear in mind ­another crucial lesson in democracy: prosecutors are required to act without fear, favour or ­prejudice.

Selebi’s defence will seek to show that the National Prosecuting Authority was compromised by selective prosecution and by politicking. He will paint himself as a victim of this trend.

Corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma had to be dropped because the former head of the Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, did not act independently and the case was compromised by tapes showing he had acted to support one ­politician against another.

This, too, should never ­happen again.

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