'Hero or a villain? Selebi was both'

2015-01-24 07:34

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)

  • Hannah Loabile - 2015-01-24 07:44

    May his soul rest in peace

  • OneCall - 2015-01-24 07:50

    He was a criminal as is Zuma, Cele, Winnie and so the list goes on,

  • Charl-Bradford Stringer - 2015-01-24 07:56

    He is a criminal and should be treated as such. RIP old thief.

  • Kevin Moxham - 2015-01-24 08:00

    a traitor to the new South Africa who put greed and incompetence above service to the country.

  • Vermeulen Gerrit - 2015-01-24 08:00

    Just another skid mark on the undies of humanity.

  • mhlonishwa.tsabedze - 2015-01-24 08:04

    White ppl will Neva change, corruption by fellow black ppl always exaggerated...besides he is hero though he tripped somehow

      michele.haiderzada - 2015-01-24 08:11

      ....and black people will never change either. Always making excuses for crime, corruption, laziness and ineptitude. Never assuming responsibility or consequences for their actions. Always being victims and crying "racism"........

      Werner Nel - 2015-01-24 08:26

      You just do not have a sense of accountability. That is why Africa is what it is.

      Jurgen Hartmann - 2015-01-24 08:28

      Yes, Michele, they make constant excuses to the extent they become an excuse.

  • Graham Jehoma - 2015-01-24 08:06

    getting a state funeral...sponsored by...yep you guessed it....taxpayers....butternut boy will be back tomorrow to visit the country for this special occassion

  • Petrus LeRoux - 2015-01-24 08:06

    To think millions of our hard earned tax money will go into the stats funeral of this rubbish, after millions were wasted on him in court when we all knew he was a corrupt piece of excrement

  • Mark Smith - 2015-01-24 08:08

    Dissolved successful units seems to be a common trait in the ruling party.

  • ivan.kraemer - 2015-01-24 08:08

    In the new SA criminals are the hero's. It is now time to join the "club" of crime and stop resisting it. Let's go loot, steal, burn and destroy together and become a unified nation of corrupt thieves. Let's celebrate our top criminals and give Selebi the respect he deserves.

  • NoAbsolutes - 2015-01-24 08:09

    How much of the out-of-control crime in SA is a result of Selebi's 'friendships' with crime overlords? I think he did a huge amount of damage to the country.

  • Danie Nel - 2015-01-24 08:09

    This is the standards kept by the ANC. Selebe was a criminal but in the eyes of the ANC and their voters he was a hero. No chance this country can survive with these standards.

  • Damir Stojakovic - 2015-01-24 08:24

    @Jack Phakathi. There are many whites who are lashing out at the colour here because they are frustrated and quite rightly so. I agree with everything that you say. But I also read about all of what you say because it's happening in our townships. This is not a colour thing. This is about evil men in society across all colour and race barriers. I know a lot of people that do more bad then good. One bad mistake doesn't make a person a bad person. But in Selebi's case it's unacceptable because of the position that he held. Indirectly many of the people in our nation will suffer because he was bad. That's what's at hand here. I find his action and what he did to be very bad and for that he will always be remembered as a bad man.

  • Japie Moolman - 2015-01-24 08:24

    I just wonder what makes him such a hero. With all the destruction and dishonesty and the bribes from criminals while in the post he was, he can only be a hero in the ANC tradition of smash and grab. Therefore this tsunami of destroying everybody in every organisation that is a threat to Mr Msholozi and his smash and grab squad. No moral values at all there.

  • Giancarlo Groenewald - 2015-01-24 08:27

    Selebi was caught with his hands in the cooky jar and now he's a hero... wow this country and it's ruling party are stupid.

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