Why did he do it?

2010-12-27 11:11

If it wasn’t such a tragic tale, one could have joked about the perfect ­Christmas gift for Jackie Selebi.

I’m sure the suggestion of originally designed David Tlale prison attire, in ­different shades of orange, would go down as pretty funny.

Or maybe a book ­titled How My Wife Shredded the Slips, and Other Courtroom Jokes.

Selebi’s downfall was a lot of things, but it certainly wasn’t funny.

Seeing the man who, until recently, embodied state power and bravado fall apart so pathetically in full public view was painful – not only for Selebi, his family and friends, but also for the majority of South Africans who depend solely on the men and women in blue to protect them from ­evildoers.

If the chief of police was corruptible, how could we be expected to trust the sergeant or constable at our local police station?

And if we are those police officers, how do we stay strong and straight in the ­exercise of our duties if it was ­relatively easy for the top cop to get away with skulduggery for so long?

The Selebi case is South Africa’s fork in the road.

I often hear that ours is a country where ­neither the worst, nor the greatest things ever happen.

Rubbish! What is more dire than having your chief of police ­convicted for corruption?

There was no clapping or laughing the day Judge Meyer Joffe convicted Selebi.

Only an eerie silence, pregnant with ­disgust and dismay.

“How could he?”

I thought to myself as the old, grey-haired man shook his head and looked up into a phalanx of camera flashes.

After publishing a book on the Selebi saga, the question I was asked the most by strangers was: “Why did he do it?”

It was also the most difficult question to answer.

My standard response was: “I don’t know. Selebi denies he did anything wrong. Maybe greed. Probably power.”

This because I honestly believe Selebi – like most criminals – never thought he’d get caught out.

He was too powerful, too close to his political master former president Thabo Mbeki, and too “smart”.

For a long time he was right.

If it wasn’t for the Polokwane regime change, he would probably never have seen the ­inside of a courtroom.

But he was hung out to dry by the new elite – a comfortable pin-up boy for the Zuma administration’s fight against ­corruption.

In an ideal democratic society, ­everybody accused of wrongdoing should be thoroughly investigated, ­irrespective of whether your surname is ­Zuma, (Christo) Wiese or Selebi.

It is our choice if we want to become another failed state where only those who are out of political favour get ­prosecuted, or if we want to be a light unto nations where the criminal and ­corrupt have nowhere to hide.

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